« PreviousContinue »
had you them all to yourself, sir?” JOHNSON. “I had them all, as much as they were had; but it might have been better had there been more company there.” BOSWELL. “ Might not Mrs. Montague have been a fourth ?” JOHNSON. “Sir, Mrs. Montague does not make a trade of her wit; but Mrs. Montague is a very extraordinary woman: she has a constant stream of conversation, and it is always impregnated; it has always meaning." Bos
66 Mr. Burke has a constant stream of conversation.” JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir; if a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke under a shed, to shun a shower, he would say, 'this is an extraordinary man. If Burke should go into a stable to see his horse dressed, the ostler would say we have had an extraordinary man here.”” BOSWELL. “Foote was a man who never failed in conversation. If he had gone into a stable,” JOHNSON. “Sir, if he had
gone into the stable, the ostler would have said, here has been a comical fellow; but he would not have respected him." BOSWELL. “And, sir, the ostler would have answered him, would have given him as good as he brought, as the common saying is.” Johnson. “Yes, sir; and Foote would have answered the ostler. When Burke does not descend to be
merry, his conversation is very superiour indeed. There is no proportion between the powers which he shows in serious talk and in jocularity. When he lets himself down to that, he is in the kennel.' I have in another place' opposed, and I hope with success, Dr. Johnson's very singular and erroneous notion as to Mr. Burke's pleasantry. Mr. Windham now said low to me, that he differed from our great friend in this observation; for that Mr. Burke was often very happy in his merriment. It would not have been right for either of us to have contradicted Johnson
16 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," vol. ii. p. 269.–Boswell.
at this time, in a society all of whom did not know and value Mr. Burke as much as we did. It might have occasioned something more rough, and at any rate would probably have checked the flow of Johnson's good humour. He called to us with a sudden air of exultation, as the thought started into his mind, “O! Gentlemen, I must tell you a very great thing The Empress of Russia has ordered the Rambler' to be translated into the Russian language'; so I shall be read on the banks of the Wolga. Horace boasts that his fame would extend as far as the banks of the Rhone; now the Wolga is farther from me than the Rhone was from Horace." BOSWELL. “You must certainly be pleased with this, sir." JOHNSON. “I am pleased, sir, to be
A man is pleased to find he has succeeded in that which he has endeavoured to do."
One of the company mentioned his having seen a noble person driving in his carriage, and looking exceedingly well, notwithstanding his great age. Johnson. “Ah, sir, that is nothing. Bacon observes that a stout healthy old man is like a tower undermined.”
On Sunday, May 16, I found him alone: he talked of Mrs. Thrale with much concern, saying. “Sir, she has done every thing wrong, since Thrale's bridle was off her neck;" and was proceeding to mention some circumstances which have since been the subject of public discussion, when he was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury.
Dr. Douglas, upon this occasion, refuted a mistaken notion which is very common in Scotland, that
"I have since heard that the report was not well founded ; but the elation discovered by Johnson in the belief that it was true showed a noble ardour for literary fame.-BOSWELL.
? [No doubt in Baretti’s libellous strictures upon her. See ante, vol. iii. 413.-ED.)
the ecclesiastical discipline' of the Church of England, though duly enforced, is insufficient to preserve the morals of the clergy, inasmuch as all delinquents may be screened by appealing to the convocation, which being never authorized by the king to sit for the despatch of business, the appeal never can be heard. Dr. Douglas observed, that this was founded upon ignorance; for that the bishops have sufficient power to maintain discipline, and that the sitting of the convocation was wholly immaterial in this respect, it being not a court of judicature, but like a parliament, to make canons and regulations as times may require. Johnson, talking of the fear of death, said,
66 Some people are not afraid, because they look upon salvation as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure that they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid.”
In one of his little manuscript diaries about this time I find a short notice, which marks his amiable disposition more certainly than a thousand studied declarations. “ Afternoon spent cheerfully and elegantly, I hope without offence to God or man ; though in no holy duty, yet in the general exercise and cultivation of benevolence."
On Monday, May 17, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were Colonel Vallancy, the Reverend Dr. Gibbons, and Mr. Capel Lofft, who, though a most zealous whig, has a mind so full of learning and knowledge, and so much exercised in various
[Experience has proved that in many instances ecclesiastical discipline cannot be enforced but at a great pecuniary sacrifice to the individual who attempts it, and without tedious and vexatious delays. To provide a remedy for these and other evils by “inquiring into the practice and proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Courts,” a commission issued in 1829.-J. H. MARKLAND.]
departments, and withal so much liberality, that the stupendous powers of the literary Goliath, though they did not frighten this little David of popular spirit, could not but excite his admiration. There was also Mr. Braithwaite of the post-office, that amiable and friendly man, who, with modest and unassuming manners, has associated with many of the wits of the age. Johnson was very quiescent today'. Perhaps too I was indolent. I find nothing more of him in my notes, but that when I mentioned that I had seen in the king's library sixty-three editions of my favourite Thomas à Kempis,-amongst which it was in eight languages, Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Arabick, and Armenian,-he said he thought it unnecessary to collect many editions of a book, which were all the same, except as to the paper and print; he would have the original, and all the translations, and all the editions which had any variations in the text. He approved of the famous collection of editions of Horace by Douglas, mentioned by Pope, who is said to have had a closet filled with them; and he added, “every man should try to collect one book in that manner, and present it to a public library.”
On Tuesday, May 18, I saw him for a short time in the morning. I told him that the mob had called out, as the king passed, "No Fox, no Fox !" which
[He probably was not quite at his ease in the company of Mr. Capel Lofft, if he exhibited, as Mr. Boswell seems to hint, any of his whig zeal.-ED.)
2 [The mention by Pope, (no very delicate one,) is in the following lines of the Dunciad and the subjoined note :
“ Bid me with Pollio sup, as well as dine,
And Douglas lend his soft obstetric hand. “ Douglas, a physician of great learning and no less taste ; above all, curious
in what related to Horace; of whom he collected every edition, translation, “ and comment, to the number of several hundred volumes.”—Dunciad, iv. 1. 392. Dr. Douglas was born in Scotland in 1675, and died in London in 1742. He published some medical works. Ed.]
3 [To open parliament. The Westminster election had concluded only the day before in favour of Mr. Fox, whose return, however, was delayed by the requisition for a scrutiny.--Ed.]
I did not like. He said, “ They were right, sir.” I said, I thought not; for it seemed to be making Mr. Fox the king's competitor. There being no audience, so that there could be no triumph in a victory, he fairly agreed with me. I said it might do very well, if explained thus, “Let us have no Fox,” understanding it as a prayer to his majesty not to appoint that gentleman minister.
On Wednesday, May 19, I sat a part of the evening with him, by ourselves. I observed, that the death of our friends might be a consolation against the fear of our own dissolution, because we might have more friends in the other world than in this. He perhaps felt this as a reflection upon his apprehension as to death, and said, with heat, “ How can a man know where his departed friends are, or whether they will be his friends in the other world? How many friendships have you known formed upon principles of virtue ? Most friendships are formed by caprice or by chance—mere confederacies in vice or leagues in folly.”
We talked of our worthy friend Mr. Langton. He said, “ I know not who will go to heaven if Langton does not. Sir, I could almost say Sit anima mea cum Langtono." I mentioned a very eminent friend' as a virtuous man. JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir; but has not the evangelical virtue of Langton. I am afraid, would not scruple to pick up a wench.”
He however charged Mr. Langton with what he thought want of judgment upon an interesting occasion. “ When I was ill," said he, “I desired he
(As Mr. Boswell has seldom applied the term "eininent friend” excepeither to Mr. Burke or Sir Joshua Reynolds, it may not be unnecessary to remind the reader that at this time Mr. Burke was fifty-four and Sir Joshua sixtytwo years of age, and that the good taste, morals, and piety of both, (and more particularly of Mr. Burke, a married man of exemplary conduct-see ante, vol. iv. p. 248), forbid our believing that either of them were meant in this passage. It is to be wished that Mr. Boswell had not mentioned so offensive an allusion, or had appropriated it to the proper object.--Ed.) VOL. V.