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week, but only such hours as he found himself disposed for composition.” — JOHNSON: “Nay, sir, unless you tell me the time he took, you tell me nothing. If I say I took a week to walk a mile, and have had the gout five days, and been ill otherwise another day, I have taken but one day. I myself have composed about forty
I have begun a sermon after dinner, and sent it off by the post that night. I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the 'Life of Savage' at a sitting; but then I sat up all night. I have also written six sheets in a day of translation from the French.”
BOSWELL: “ We have all observed how one man dresses himself slowly and another fast.”—JOHNSON: “Yes, sir; it is wonderful how much time some people will consume in dressing; taking up a thing and looking at it, and laying it down, and taking it up again. Everyone should get the habit of doing it quickly. I would say to a young divine, 'Here is your text; let me see how soon you can make a sermon.' Then I'd say, ' Let me see how much better you can make it.' Thus I should see both his powers and his judgment.”
We all went to Dr. Watson's to supper. Miss Sharp, great-grandchild of Archbishop Sharp, was there ; as was Mr. Craig, the ingenious architect of the new town of Edinburgh, and nephew of Thomson, to whom Dr. Johnson has since done so much justice, in his “Lives of the Poets.”
We talked of memory and its various modes.-JOHNSON : “Memory will play strange tricks. One sometimes loses a single word. I once lost fugaces in the Ode ‘Posthume, Posthume.'” I mentioned to him that a worthy gentleman of my acquaintance actually forgot his own name.-JOHNSON: “Sir, that was a morbid oblivion.”
FRIDAY, AUGUST 20. Dr. Shaw, the Professor of Divinity, breakfasted with us. I took out my “Ogden on Prayer,” and read some of it to the company. Dr. Johnson praised him. Abernethy,” said he, " allows only of a physical effect of prayer upon the mind, which may be produced many ways, as well as by prayer; for instance, by meditation. Ogden goes further,
In truth, we have the consent of all nations for the efficacy of prayer, whether offered up by individuals or by assemblies; and revelation has told us it will be effectual." I said, “Leechman seemed to incline to Abernethy's doctrine.” Dr. Watson observed that Leechman meant to show that, even admitting no effect to be produced by prayer respecting the Deity, it was useful to our own minds. He had only given a part of his system. Dr. Johnson thought he should have given the whole.*
* Dr. William Leechman wrote a Life of Hutcheson, the father of speculative philosophy in Scotland; also a discourse on prayer. He was successively Professor of Theology and Principal of the University of Glasgow. He died Deceniber 3rd, 1786, aged eighty. John Abernethy was a Dissenting minister in Ireland, born at Coleraire in 1680, died in 1740. His sermons fill six volumes, and he wrote various able tbeological treatises.-ED.
Dr. Johnson enforced the strict observance of Sunday. “It should be different,” he observed, "from another day.
People may walk, but not throw stones at birds. There may be relaxation, but there should be no levity.”
We went and saw Colonel Nairne's garden and grotto. Here was a fine old plane-tree. Unluckily, the colonel said there was but this and another large tree in the county. This assertion was an excellent cue for Dr. Johnson, who laughed enormously, calling me to hear it. He had expatiated to me on the nakedness of that part of Scotland which he had seen. His“ Journey” has been violently abused for what he has said upon this subject. But let it be considered that when Dr. Johnson talks of trees he means trees of good size, such as he was accustomed to see in England; and of these there are certainly very few upon the eastern coast of Scotland. Besides, he said he only meant to give a map of the road; and let any traveller observe how many trees which deserve the name he can see from the road from Berwick to Aberdeen. Had Dr. Johnson said, “ There are no trees” upon this line, he would have said what is colloquially true; because by no trees, in common speech, we mean few. When he is particular in counting ho may be attacked. I know not how Colonel Nairne came to say there were but two large trees in the county of Fife. I did not perceive that he smiled. There are certainly not a great many; but I could have shown him more than two at Balmuto, from whence my ancestors came, and which now belongs to a branch of my family.*
The grotto was ingeniously constructed. In the front of it were petrified stocks of fir, plane, and some other tree. Dr. Johnson said, “Scotland has no right to boast of this grotto ; it is owing to personal merit. I never denied personal merit to many of you.” Professor Shaw said to me as we walked, “ This is a wonderful man, he is master of every subject he handles.” Dr. Watson allowed him a very strong understanding, but wondered at his total inattention to established manners, as he came from London.
I have not preserved in my Journal any of the conversation which passed between Dr. Johnson and Professor Shaw; but I
* Pennant in his Scottish Tour of 1769 had observed the paucity of trees in Fifeshire, "except about a gentleman's seat called Blair, where there are great and flourishing plantations.” Pennant notices that a spirit for planting had become general in Scotland; and Johnson's “ Journey” materially increased it.- ED.
recollect Dr. Johnson said to me afterwards, "I took much to Shaw."*
We left St. Andrews about noon, and, some miles from it, observing at Leuchars a church with an old tower, we stopped to look at it. The manse, as the parsonage-house is called in Scotland, was close by. I waited on the minister, mentioned our names, and begged he would tell us what he knew about it. He was a very civil old man, but could only inform us that it was supposed to have stood eight hundred years. He told us there was a colony of Danes in his parish, that they had landed at a remote period of time, and still remained a distinct people. Dr. Johnson shrewdly inquired whether they had brought women with them. We were not satisfied as to this colony.
We saw this day Dundee and Aberbrothick, the last of which Dr. Johnson has celebrated in his "Journey." Upon the road we talked of the Roman Catholic faith. He mentioned, I think, Tillotson's argument against transubstantiation: "That we are as sure we see bread and wine only, as that we read in the Bible the text on which that false doctrine is founded. We have only the evidence of our senses for both." If," he added, "God had never spoken figuratively, we might hold that he speaks literally when he says, 'This is my body.""-BosWELL: "But what do you say, sir, to the ancient and continued tradition of the Church upon this point?"-JOHNSON: “Tradition, sir, has no place where the Scriptures are plain; and tradition cannot persuade a man into a belief of transubstantiation Able men, indeed, have said they believed it."
This is an awful subject. I did not then press Dr. Johnson upon it; nor shall I now enter upon a disquisition concerning the import of those words uttered by our Saviour, which had such an effect upon many of his disciples that they "went back, and walked no more with him." The Catechism and solemn Office for Communion, in the Church of England, maintain a mysterious belief in more than a mere commemoration of the death of Christ, by partaking of the elements of bread and wine.
Dr. Johnson put me in mind that, at St. Andrews, I had defended my profession very well, when the question had again been started,
* Professor Andrew Shaw of St. Mary's College, St. Andrews, died November 27, 1779.-ED.
This church is chiefly Saxon in style built apparently in the eleventh or twelfth century.—ED.
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."-See St. John's Gospel, chap, vi. 53 and following verses.-Boswell.
Whether a lawyer might honestly engage with the first side that offers him a fee.
"Sir," said I, "it was with your arguments against Sir William Forbes; but it was much that I could wield the arms of Goliah."
He said our judges had not gone deep in the question concerning literary property. I mentioned Lord Monboddo's opinion, that if a man could get a work by heart he might print it, as by such an act the mind is exercised.-JOHNSON: "No, sir; a man's repeating it no more makes it his property, than a man may sell a cow which he drives home." I said printing an abridgement of a work was allowed, which was only cutting the horns and tail off the cow.— JOHNSON: "No, sir; 'tis making the cow have a calf."
About eleven at night we arrived at Montrose. We found but a sorry inn, where I myself saw another waiter put a lump of sugar with his fingers into Dr. Johnson's lemonade, for which he called him "Rascal!" It put me in great glee that our landlord was an Englishman. I rallied the Doctor upon this, and he grew quiet. Both Sir John Hawkins's and Dr. Burney's History of Music had then been advertised. I asked if this was not unlucky; would not they hurt one another?-JOHNSON: "No, sir, they will do good to one another
Some will buy the one, some the other, and compare them; and so a talk is made about a thing, and the books are sold.”
He was angry at me * for proposing to carry lemons with us to Sky, that he might be sure to have his lemonade. Sir,” said he, “I do not wish to be thought that feeble man who cannot do without anything. Sir, it is very bad manners to carry provisions to any man's bouse, as if he could not entertain you. To an inferior it is oppressive, to a superior it is insolent.”
Having taken the liberty this evening to remark to Dr. Johnson that he very often sat quite silent for a long time, even when in company with only a single friend, which I myself had sometimes sadly experienced, he smiled and said, “It is true, sir. Tom Tyers,” for so he familiarly called our ingenious friend, who, since his death, has paid a biographical tribute to his memory, “ Tom Tyers described me the best. He once said to me, 'Sir, you are like a ghost; you never speak till you are spoken to.'"+
SATURDAY, AUGUST 21. Neither the Rev. Mr. Nisbet, the Established minister, nor the Rev. Mr. Spooner, the Episcopal minister, were in town. Before breakfast we went and saw the town-hall, where is a good dancing room, and other rooms for tea-drinking. The appearance of the town from it is very well; but many of the houses are built with their ends to the street, which looks awkward. When we came down from it I met Mr. Gleig, a merchant here. He went with us to see the English chapel. It is situated on a pretty dry spot, and there is a fine walk to it. It is really an elegant building, both within and without. The organ is adorned with green and gold. Dr. Johnson gave a shilling extraordinary to the clerk, saying, "He belongs to an honest Church." I put him in mind that Episcopals were but dissenters here; they were only tolerated. “Sir," said he, “we are here as Christians in Turkey.” He afterwards went into an apothecary's shop, and ordered some medicine for himself, and wrote the prescription in technical characters. The boy took him for a physician.
I doubted much which road to take, whether to go by the coast or by Lawrence Kirk and Monboddo. I knew Lord Monboddo and Dr Johnson did not love each other; yet I was unwilling not to visit
• Another Scotticism-at instead of with. This is a very common error, yet David Hume and Beattie include it in their lists of Scotticisms. Scotch, to be angry at a man; English, to be angry with a man.”-Hume's Philosophical Works, vol. I.- Ep.
This description of Dr. Johnson appears to have been borrowed from “Tom Jones," book XI. chap. ii. “The other who, like a ghost, only wanted to be spoke to, readily answered,” &c.-BOSWELL.