« PreviousContinue »
maintained that Archibald, Duke of Argyle, was a narrow man. I wondered at this; and observed, that his building so great a house at Inverary was not like a narrow man. “Sir, (said he) when a narrow man has resolved to build a house, he builds it like another
But Archibald, Duke of Argyle, was narrow in his ordinary expences, in his quotidian expences.”
The distinction is very just. It is in the ordinary expences of life that a man's liberality or narrówness is to be discovered. I never heard the word quotidian in this sense, and I imagined it to be a word of Dr. Johnson's own fabrication; but I have since found it in Young's " Night Thoughts," (Night Fifth):
“Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey." and in my friend's Dictionary, supported by the authorities of Charles I. and Dr. Donne.
It rained very hard as we journeyed on after dinner. The roar of torrents from the mountains, as we passed along in the dusk, and the other circumstances attending our ride in the evening, have been mentioned with so much animation by Dr. Johnson, that I shall not attempt to say anything on the subject.* tion of the elder poet. For Cowley's finest thoughts 'we should rather look to his prose than to his poetry ; but Johnson's more deliberate and critical estimate of Cow ley will be found in his Life" of that poet-one of the best of his biographies.-ED.
* “ The night came on while we had yet a great part of the way to go, though not so dark but that we could discern the cataracts, which poured down the hills on one side and feil into one general channel that ran with great violence on the other. The wind
was loud, the rain was heavy, and the whistling of the blast, the fall of the shower, the rush of the cataracts, and the roar of the torrent, made a nohler chorus of the rough music of Nature than it had ever been my chance to hear before.” (Johnson's "Journey.")--This road from Oban to Inverary commands views of some of the noblest scenery in Scotland. Few who have travelled it will forget Loch Etive, Loch Awe and its wild Pass, Kilchurn Castle, or Ben Cruachan. Historical and poetic associations also consecrate the landscape. The chivalrous exploits of Bruce are indelibly connected with the district, and it has received fresh interest from the genius of Scott, Wordsworth, and Wilson. Scott's Highland widow, sitting at the foot of the oak-tree, by the River Awe, will be remembered as long as Bruce's knightly encoun: ter with the followers of Lorn.--ED.
We got at night to Inverary, where we found an excellent inn. Even here, Dr. Johnson would not change his wet clothes.
The prospect of good accommodation cheered us much. We supped well; and, after supper, Dr. Johnson, whom I had not seen taste any fermented liquor during all our travels, called for a gill of whiskey. • Come (said he), let me know what it is that makes a Scotchman happy!" He drank it all but a drop, which I begged leave to pour into my glass, that I might say we had drunk whiskey together. I proposed Mrs. Thrale should be our toast. He would not have her drunk in whiskey, but rather “ some insular lady;" so we drank one of the ladies whom we had lately left.—He owned to-night, that he got as good a room and bed as at an English inn.
I had here the pleasure of finding a letter from home, which relieved me from the anxiety I had suffered, in consequence of not having received any account of my family for many weeks. I also found a letter from Mr. Garrick, which was a regale as agreeable as a pine-apple would be in a desert. He had favoured me with his correspondence for many years; and when Dr. Johnson and I were at Inverness, I had written to him as follows:
Inverness, Sunday, 29th August, 1773. MY DEAR SIR, -Here I am, and Mr. Samuel Johnson actually with me. We were a night at Fores, in coming to which, in the dusk of the evening, we passed over the bleak and blasted heath where Macbeth met the witches. Your old preceptor repeated, with much solemnity, the speech
“ How far is't called to Fores? What are these,
So wither'd and so wild in their attire," &c. This day we visited the ruins of Macbeth's castle at Inverness. I have had great romantic satisfaction in seeing Johnson upon the classical scenes of Shakspeare in Scotland; which I really looked upon as almost as improbable as that “Birnam wood should come to Dunsinane.” Indeed, as I have always been accustomed to view him as a permanent London object, it would not be much more wonderful to me to see St. Paul's church moving along where we now are. As yet we have travelled in postchaises; but to-morrow we are to mount on horseback, and ascend into the mountains by Fort Augustus, and so on to the ferry, where we are to cross to Sky. We shall see that island fully, and then visit some more of the Hebrides; after which we are to land in Argyleshire, proceed by Glasgow to Auchinleck, repose there a competent time, and then return to Edinburgh, from whence the Rambler will depart for old England again, as soon as he finds it convenient. Hitherto we have had a very prosperous expedition. I flatter myself, servetur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit. [That it will continue as prosperous as it began.] He is in excellent spirits, and I have a rich journal of his conversation. Look back, Davy,* to Lichfield; run up through the time that has elapsed since yon first knew Mr. Johnson, and enjoy with me his present extraordinary tour. I could not resist the impulse of writing to you from this place. The situation of the old castle corresponds exactly to Shakspeare's description. While we were there to-day it happened oddly that a raven perched upon one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I in my turn repeated
“The raven himself is hoarse,
Under my battlements.” I wish you had been with us. Think what enthusiastic happiness I shall have to see Ir. Samuel Johnson walking among the romantic rocks and woods of my ancestors at Auchinleck! Write to me at Edinburgh. You owe me his verses on great George and tuneful Cibber, and the bad verses which led him to make his fine ones on Philips the musician. Keep your promise, and let me liave them. I offer my very best compliments to Mrs. Garrick, and erer am
Your warm admirer and friend,
JAMES BOSWELL. To David Garrick, Esq., London, His answer was as follows:
Hampton, September 14, 1773. DEAR SIR,-You stole away from London, and left us all in the lurch; for we expected you one night at the club, and knew nothing of your departure. Had I payed yon what I owed you, for the book you bought for me, I should only have, grieved for the loss of your company, and slept with a quiet conscience ; but wounded as it is, it must remain so till I see you again, though I am sure our good friend Mr. Johnson will discharge the debt for me, if you will let him. Your account of your journey to Fores, the raven, old castle, &c. &c., made me half mad. Are you not rather too late in the year for fine weather, which is the life and soul of seeing places ? I hope your pleasure will continue qualis ab incepto, &c.
Your friend+ threatens me much. I only wish that lie would put his threats in execution, and, if he prints his play, I will forgive him. I remember he complaineil to you that his bookseller called for the money for some copies of his -, which I subscribed for, and that I desired him to call again. The truth is, that my wife was
* I took the liberty of giving this familiar appellation to my celebrated friend,
to bring in a more lively manner to his remembrance the period when he was Dr. Johnson's pupil.-BosWELL.
+ I have spppressed my friend's name from an apprehension of wounding his sen. sibility; but I would not withhold from my readers a passage which shows Mr. Garrick's mode of writing as the manager of a theatre, and contains a pleasing trait of his domestic life. His judgment of dramatic pieces, so far as concerns their exhibition on the stage, must be allowed to have considerable weight. But from the effect which a perusal of the tragedy here condemned had upon myself, and from the opinions of some eminent critics, I venture to pronounce that it has much poetical merit; and its author has distinguished himself by several performances which show that the epithet “poetaster" was, in the present instance, much misapplied.-BOSWELL. [From a letter of Johnson's to Mrs. Thrale, the author alluded to appears to have been Mickle, translator of the “Lusiad," a man of fine poetical but not dramatic talent.--Ed.]
not at home, and that for weeks together I have not ten shillings in my pocket. However, had it been otherwise it was not so great a crime to draw his poetical vengeance upon me. I despise all that he can do, and am glad that I can so easily get rid of him and his ingratitude. I am hardened both to abuse and ingratitude.
You, I am sure, will no more recommend your poetasters to my civility and good offices.
Shall I recommend to you a play of Eschylus, (the Prometheus), published and translated by poor old Morell, who is a good scholar, and an acquaintance of mine? It will be but half a guinea, and your name shall be put in the list I am making for him. You will be in very good company.
Now for the epitaphs !
[These, together with the verses on George the Second, and Colley Cibber, as his Poet Laureate, of which imperfect copies are gone about, will appear
my “ Life of Dr. Johnson.”] * I have no more paper, or I should have said more to you. My love and respects to Mr. Johnson.-Your's ever,
D. GARRICK. I can't write, I have the gout in my hand.
To James Boswell, Esq., Edinburgh.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24. We passed the forenoon calmly and placidly. I prevailed on Dr. Johnson to read aloud Ogden's sixth Sermon on Prayer, which he did with a distinct expression, and pleasing solemnity. He praised my favourite preacher, his elegant language, and remarkable acuteness; and said, he fought infidels with their own weapons.
As a specimen of Ogden's manner, I insert the following passage from the sermon which Dr. Johnson now read. The preacher, after arguing against that vain philosophy which maintains, in conformity with the hard principle of eternal necessity, or unchangeable predetermination, that the only effect of prayer for others, although we are exhorted to pray for them, is to produce good dispositions in ourselves towards them; thus expresses himself :
“A plain man may be apt to ask, “But if this, then, though enjoined in the Holy Scriptures, is to be my real aim and intention, when I am taught to pray for other per. sons, why is it that I do not plainly so express it? W is not the form of the petition brought nearer to the meaning? Give them, say I to our heavenly Father, what is good. But this, I am to understand, will be as it will be, and is not for me to alter. What is it, then, that I am doing? I am desiring to become charitable myself; and why may I not plainly say so? Is there shame in it, or impiety? The wish is laudable : why should I form designs to hide it?
“Or is it, perhaps, better to be brought about by indirect means, and in this artful manner? Alas! who is it that I would impose on? From whom can it be, in this commerce, that I desire to hide anything? When, as my Saviour commands me, I have entered into my closet, and shut my door, there are but two parties privy to my devotions, God and my own heart; which of the two am I deceiving P”
He wished to have more books; and, upon inquiring if there were any in the house, was told that a waiter had some, which were brought to him; but I recollect none of them, except “Hervey's Meditations." He thought slightingly of this admired book. He treated it with ridicule, and would not allow even the scene of the dying husband and father to be pathetic. I am not an impartial judge; for "
Hervey's Meditations” engaged my affections in my early years. — He read a passage concerning the moon ludicrously, and showed how easily he could, in the same style, make reflections on that planet, the very reverse of Hervey's, representing her as treacherous to mankind. He did this with much humour; but I have not preserved the particulars. He then indulged a playful fancy, in making a “Meditation on a Pudding," of which I hastily wrote down, in his presence, the following note, which, though imperfect, may serve to give my readers some idea of it:
MEDITATION ON A PUDDING. Let us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed. It is composed of flour that once waved in the golden grain, and drank the dews of the morning; of milk pressed from the swelling ndder by the gentle hand of the beauteous milk-maid, whose beauty and ivnocence might have recommended a worse draught; who, while she stroked the udder, indulged no ambitious thoughts of wandering in palaces, formed no plans for the destruction of her fellow-creatures: milk, which is drawn from the cow, that useful animal, that eats the grass of the field, and supplies us with that which made the greatest part of the food of mankind in the age which the poets have agreed to call golden. It is made with an egg, that miracle of nature, which the theoretical Burnet has compared to creation. An egg contains water within its beautiful smooth surface; and an unformed mass, by the incubation of the parent, becomes a regular animal, furnished with bones and sinews, and covered with feathers. Let us consider ;