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in honourable remembrance.* And we were too proud not to carry him to the Abbey of Holyrood-house, that beautiful piece of archi tecture, but, alas ! that deserted mansion of royalty, which Hamilton of Bangour, in one of his elegant poems, calls
“A virtuous palace, wh-re no monarch dwells.” I was much entertained while Principal Robertson fluently harangued to Dr. Johnson upon the spot, concerning the scenes of his celebrated “ History of Scotland.” We surveyed that part of the palace appropriated to the Duke of Hamilton, as keeper, in which
our beautiful Queen Mary lived, and in which David Rizzio was murdered, and also the state rooms. Dr. Johnson was a great reciter of all sorts of things, serious or comical. I overheard him repeating here, in a kind of muttering tone, a line of the old ballad, “ Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night :"
“And ran him through the fair body.”+ We returned to my house, where there met him at dinner the Duchess of Douglas, Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Chief Baron, Sir William Forbes, Principal Robertson, Mr. Cullen, advocate.
* He was seven times elected Provost of Edinburgh, and died in 1766. A bust of Mr. Drummond by Nollekens was placed in the entrance hall of the Infirmary.- ED. The stanza from which he took this line is,
“But then rose up all Edinburgh,
They rose up by thousands three;
And ran him through the fair body!"-- BOSWELL.
Before dinner he told us of a curious conversation between the famous George Faulkner and him. George said that England had drained Ireland of fifty thousand pounds in specie annually for fifty years. “How so, sir?” said Dr. Johnson ; "you must have a very great trade ?” “No trade.” “Very rich mines?" “No mines.” “From whence, then, does all this money come ?" “Come! why out of the blood and bowels of the poor people of Ireland !"
He seemed to me to have an unaccountable prejudice against Swift; for I once took the liberty to ask him if Swift had personally offended him, and he told me he had not. He said to-day, “Swift is clear, but he is shallow. In coarse humour he is inferior to Arbuthnot; in delicate humour he is inferior to Addison; so he is inferior to his contemporaries, without putting him against the whole world. I doubt if the Tale of a Tub’ was his, it has so much more thinking, more knowledge, more power, more colour than any of the works which are indisputably his. If it was his, I shall only say, he was impar sibi."*
We gave him as good a dinner as we could Our Scotch muir-fowl or grouse were then abundant, and quite in season; and so far as wisdom and wit can be aided by administering agreeable sensations to the palate, my wife took cere that our great guest should not be deficient.
Sir Adolphus Oughton, then our deputy commander-in-chief, who was not only an excellent officer, but one of the most universal scholars I ever knew, had learned the Erse language, and expressed his belief in the authenticity of Ossian's poetry.f Dr. Johnson took the opposite side of that perplexed question, and I was afraid the dispute would have run high between them. But Sir Adolphus, who had à very sweet temper, changed the discourse, grew playful, laughed at Lord Monboddo's notion of men having tails, and called him a judge à posteriori, which amused Dr. Johnson, and thus hostilities were prevented.
At supper we had Dr. Cullen, his son the advocate, Dr. Adam
• To combat this prejudice would now be a work of supererogation. Who but Swift could have written the “ Tale of a Tub?" Had the authorship been really uncertain, Swift would have been a bishop.-ED.
† He had even translated some of the Ossianic fragments. Sir Adolphus appears to have been a highly-accomplished and amiable man. He made the tour of Italy, and amidst all his campaigns cultivated a taste for literature and the fine arts. He served under the Duke of Cumberland in Flanders and in Scotland, and commanded one of the six British regiments at the battle of Minden. He died at Bath, April 14th, 1780, aged sixty.- ED.
Fergusson, and Mr. Crosbie, advocate.* Witchcraft was introduced. Mr. Crosbie said he thought it the greatest blasphemy to suppose evil spirits counteracting the Deity, and raising storms, for instance, to destroy his creatures.-JOHNSON: “Why, sir, if moral evil be consistent with the government of the Deity, why may not physical evil be also consistent with it? Is it not more strange that there should be evil spirits than evil men, evil unembodied spirits than evil embodied spirits? And as to storms, we know there are such things; and it is no worse that evil spirits raise them than that they rise.”—CROSBIE: “But it is not credible that witches should have effected 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. Fergusson said to me aside, “He is right."] And then, sir, you have all mankind, rude and civilised, 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
* Andrew Crosbie, Esq., Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. This gentleman is believed to have been the original of Pleydell, the lawyer, in “Guy Mannering.” He was equally distinguished for his eloquence and his conviviality. Dugald Stewart, in his Life of Robertson, speaks of “the copious and fervid declamation of Crosbie.” He was celebrated in the Church courts. His practice was extensive and his society much courted, but habits of extravagance involved him in pecuniary difficulties, and his intemperance became more reckless and confirmed. He died February 25th, 1785, aged forty-nine. It is said that so completely had the habits of the once-popular pleader alienated his friends and sunk him in society, that only a few hired attendants could be had to follow his remains to the grave! Dr. Cullen the eminent physician died in 1790, aged eighty. His son became a judge under the title of Lord Cullen.-Ed.
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 he might be taught to speak. Dr. Johnson treated this with ridicule. Mr. Crosbie said that Lord Monboddo believed the existence of everything possible ; in short, that all that 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 drunk 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 buzz of the theatre."
TUESDAY, AUGUST 17. 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 surprised 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. John
* See his letter on this subject in the Appendix.-Boswell.
[A Life of Blacklock was written by Henry Mackenzie, the “Man of Feeling,” and prefixed to an edition of the works of the blind poet published in 1793. It is also included in Mackenzie's Works, Edinburgh 1808. Blacklock was born in 1721 at Annan, county of Dumfries, and lost his eyesight by the small-pox before he was six months old.
He early evinced a taste for literature, and by the assistance of Dr. Stevenson, a physician of Edinburgh, he received a classical education at the university of that city. Editions of his poems were printed in 1746, 1754, and 1756. To the latest of these Spence, the friend of Pope, contributed a Life. David Hume, Dr. Blair, and the other literati of Edinburgh, interested themselves in the fortunes of Blacklock, and his life was spent in comparative comfort and tranquillity. “It was a sight highly gratifying to philanthropy,” says Henry Mackenzie, "to see how much a mind endowed with knowledge, kindled by genius, and above all, lighted up with innocence and piety, like Blacklock's, could overcome the weight of its own calamity, and enjoy the content, the happiness, and the gaiety of others." Blacklock had the honour of being the poetical preceptor of Sir Walter Scott. “The kind old man,” says Scott, opened to me the stores of his library, and through his recommendation I became intimate with Ossian and Spenser.' Blacklock died at Edinburgh, July 7th, 1791. His poetry is now forgotten. It possesse some fancy, tenderness, and elegance; but his descriptions being drawn from reading and memory, want originality and force. He was compelled to look at nature “througa the spectacles of books," as Dryden expresses it.--Ed.]
son, 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 Butler'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 satiric 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 (1785) 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 any interruption. Lord Hailes, who was 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 Englislı, pleased him highly. He told him he had discovered the life
* Sir A. Dick of Prestonfield, Bart , had practised medicine and was at one time President of the College of Physicians. On succeeding to the family estate and baronetcy he discontinued his profession, but laboured with disinterested zeal to advance medical