Page images
PDF
EPUB

way of a companion, sir?” Johnson. “To get rid of myself; to send myself away. Wine gives great pleasure; and every pleasure is of itself a good. It is a good, unless counterbalanced by evil. A man may have a strong reason not to drink wine ; and that may be greater than the pleasure, Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. Sometimes it does. But the danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with himself, he may be growing less pleasing to others. Wine gives a man nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit; it only animates a man, and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed. It only puts in motion what has been locked up in frost. But this may be good, or it may be bad.” SPOTTISWOODE. “So, sir, wine is a key which opens a box; but this box may be either full or empty.” JOHNSON. “Nay, sir, conversation is the key : wine is a picklock, which forces open the box, and injures it. A man should cultivate his mind so as to have that confidence and readiness without wine, which wine gives.” BOSWELL. “ The great difficulty of resisting wine is from benevolence. For instance, a good worthy man asks you to taste his wine, which he has had twenty years in his cellar.” Johnson. “Sir, all this notion about benevolence arises from a man's imagining himself to be of more importance to others than he really is. They don't care a farthing whether he drinks wine or not.” SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. “ Yes, they do for the time.” Johnson. “For the time !-If they care this minute, they forget it the next. And as for the good worthy man; how do you know he is good and worthy? No good and worthy man will insist upon another man's drinking wine. As to the wine twenty years in the cellar,—of ten men, three say this merely because they must say something; three are telling a lie when they say they have had the wine twenty years ;—three would rather save the wine ;-one, perhaps, cares. I allow it is something to please one's company; and people are always pleased with those who partake pleasure with them. But after a man has brought himself to relinquish the great personal pleasure which arises from drinking wine, any other consideration is a trifle. To please others by drinking wine, is something only, if there be nothing against it. I should, however, be sorry to offend worthy men :

e It is observed in Waller's life, in the Biographia Britannica, that he drank only water; and that while he sat in a company who were drinking wine, “ he had the dexterity to accommodate his discourse to the pitch of theirs as it sunk.If excess in drinking be meant, the remark is acutely just. But surely a moderate use of wine gives a gaiety of spirits which water-drinkers know not.

Boswell.

Curst be the verse, how well so e'er it flow,

That tends to make one worthy man my foe.” Boswell. “Curst be the spring, the water.” Johnson. “But let us consider what a sad thing it would be, if we were obliged to drink or do any thing else that may happen to be agreeable to the company where we are.” LANGTON. “ By the same rule you must join with a gang of cutpurses.” Johnson. “Yes, sir : but yet we must do justice to wine; we must allow it the power it possesses. To make a man pleased with himself, let me tell you, is doing a very great thing :

Si patriæ volumus, si NOBIS vivere cari.” I was at this time myself a water-drinker, upon trial, by Johnson's recommendation. Johnson. “Boswell is a bolder combatant than sir Joshua: he argues for wine without the help of wine ; but sir Joshua with it.” Sir Joshua REYNOLDS. “But to please one's company is a strong motive.” JOHNSON, (who, from drinking only water, supposed every body who drank wine to be elevated.) “I won't argue any more with you, sir. You are too far gone.” Sir Joshua. “I should have thought so indeed, sir, had I made such a speech as you have now done.” Johnson, (drawing himself in, and I really thought blushing.) “ Nay, don't be angry. I did not mean to offend

you.” Sir Joshua. “At first the taste of wine was disagreeable to me; but I brought myself to drink it, that I might be like other people. The pleasure of drinking wine is so connected with pleasing your company, that altogether there is something of social goodness in it.” Johnson. “Sir, this is only saying the same thing over again." Sir Joshua. “ No, this is new.” JOHNSON. You put it in new words, but it is an old thought. This is one of the disadvantages of wine : it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.” Boswell. “I think it is a new thought; at least it is in a new attitude.Johnson. “Nay, sir, it is only in a new coat; or an old coat with a new facing.” Then laughing heartily: “It is the old dog in the new doublet.-An extraordinary instance, however, may occur, where a man's patron will do nothing for him unless he will drink : there may be a good reason for drinking.”

I mentioned a nobleman who, I believed, was really uneasy if his company would not drink hard. JOHNSON. That is from having had people about him whom he has been accustomed to command.” BoswELL, “Supposing I should be tête-à-tête with him at table.” JOHNSON. “Sir, there is no more reason for your drinking with him, than his being sober with you.BosweLL. “Why that is true ; for it would do him less hurt to be sober, than it would do me to get drunk.” Johnson. “Yes, sir; and from what I have heard of him, one would not wish to sacrifice himself to such a man. If he must always have somebody to drink with him, he should buy a slave, and then he would be sure to have it. They who submit to drink as another pleases, make themselves his slaves.” Boswell.“ But, sir, you will surely make allowance for the duty of hospitality. A gentleman who loves drinking comes to visit me.” JOHNSON. “Sir, a man knows whom he visits; he comes to the table of a sober man.” BosWELL. “But, sir, you and I should not have been so well received in the highlands and Hebrides, if I had not drunk with our worthy friends. Had I drunk water only, as you did, they would not have been so cordial.” JohnSON. “Sir William Temple mentions, that in his travels through the Netherlands he had two or three gentlemen with him; and when a bumper was necessary, he put it on them. Were I to travel again through the islands, I would have sir Joshua with me to take the bumpers.” Boswell.“ But, sir, let me put a case. Suppose sir Joshua should take a jaunt into Scotland: he does me the honour to pay me a visit at my house in the country; I am overjoyed at seeing him; we are quite by ourselves: shall I unsociably and churlishly let him sit drinking by himself? No, no, my dear sir Joshua, you shall not be treated so; I will take a bottle with you."

The celebrated Mrs. Rudd being mentioned, -Johnson. “ Fifteen years ago I should have gone to see her.” SPOTTISWOODE.“ Because she was fifteen years younger?” JOHNSON. “ No, sir ; but now they have a trick of putting every thing into the newspapers.”

He begged of general Paoli to repeat one of the introductory stanzas of the first book of Tasso's Jerusalem, which he did; and then Johnson found fault with the simile of sweetening the edges of a cup for a child, being transferred from Lucretius into an epick poemf. The general said he did not imagine Homer's poetry was so ancient as is supposed, because he ascribes to a Greek colony circumstances of refinement not found in Greece itself at a later period, when Thucydides wrote. Johnson. “I recollect but one passage quoted by Thucydides from Homer, which is not to be found in our copies of Homer's works. I am for the antiquity of Homer; and think that a

f Sed veluti pueris absinthia tetra medentes

Cum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum
Contingunt mellis dulci flavoque liquore,
Ut puerorum ætas improvida ludificetur
Labrorum tenus, interea perpotet amarum
Absinthî laticem, deceptaque non capiatur,

Sed potius tali facto recreata valescat. LUCRETIUS, i. 935. 8 This statement is not precisely accurate. There is certainly only one long quotation from Homer in Thucydides, and that is from the hymns, whose author has been the subject of much learned discussion. It occurs in Thucydides, b. iii. c. 104–105, and is introduced by the historian to illustrate an account he is giving of some festal solemnities at Delos. The address of the bard to the virgins who are listening to his song, is so exquisitely pathetick, and presents so vividly to our imagination the “ blind old man of Scio's rocky isle," that we cannot coldly enquire into the genuineness of the composition. But Homer's merits, in the conversation recorded above, were canvassed rather as a chronicler than a poet; and in that character the sagacious Thucydides awards him the highest praise. In summing up evidence of an ancient fact, the historian concludes, Terunpuoi uálcora"Ounpoç : a compliment to the Homerick authority that cannot, in its strength, be adequately translated. See Thucyd. b. i. c. 3. 9, 10.-ED.

Grecian colony, by being nearer Persia, might be more refined than the mother country.”

On Wednesday, April 29th, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, where were lord Binning, Dr. Robertson the historian, sir Joshua Reynolds, and the honourable Mrs. Boscawen, widow of the admiral, and mother of the present viscount Falmouth; of whom, if it be not presumptuous in me to praise her, I would say, that her manners are the most agreeable, and her conversation the best, of any lady with whom I ever had the happiness to be acquainted. Before Johnson came, we talked a good deal of him. Ramsay said, he had always found him a very polite man, and that he treated him with great respect, which he did very sincerely. I said, I worshipped him. ROBERTSON. “ But some of you spoil him: you should not worship him; you should worship no man.” BOSWELL. “I cannot help worshipping him, he is so much superiour to other men.” ROBERTSON. “In criticism, and in wit and conversation, he is no doubt very excellent; but in other respects he is pot above other men: he will believe any thing; and will strenuously defend the most minute circumstance connected with the church of England.” BOSWELL.“ Believe me, doctor, you are much mistaken as to this; for when you talk with him calmly in private, he is very liberal in his way of thinking.” ROBERTSON. “ He and I have been always very gracious: the first time I met him was one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky

« PreviousContinue »