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than in his prose There is deception in this: it is not easier, but better suited to the dignity of verse; as one may dance with grace whose motions in ordinary walking, in the common step, are awkward. He had a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking; yet, though grave and awful in his deportment, when he thought it necessary or proper he frequently indulged himself in pleasantry and sportive sallies. He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He had a loud voice, and a slow deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation.* His person was large, robust, I may say approaching to the gigantic, and grown unwieldy from corpulency. His countenance was naturally of the cast of an ancient statue, but somewhat disfigured by the scars of that evil, which, it was formerly imagined, the royal touch could cure. He was now in his sixty-fourth year, and was become a little dull of hearing. His sight had always been somewhat weak; yet, so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his perceptions were uncommonly quick and accurate. His head, and sometimes also his body, shook with a kind of motion like the effect of a palsy; he appeared to be frequently disturbed by cramps, or convulsive contractions,t of the nature of that distemper called “St. Vitus's dance.” He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted-hair.buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick. Let me not
* Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry and some truth, that “ Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary were it not for his bow-wow way:" but I admit the truth of this only on some occasions. The “Messiah," played upon the Canterbury organ, is more sublime than when played upon an inferior instrument: but very slight music will seem grand when conveyed to the ear through that majestic medium. While, therefore, Dr. Johnson's sayings are read, let his manner be taken along with them. Let it, however, be observed, that the sayings themselves are generally great; that though he might be an ordinary composer at times, he was for the most part a Handel.-Boswell.
+ Such they appeared to me; but since the first edition, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me," that Dr. Johnson's extraordinary gestures were only habits, in which he indulged himself at certain times. When in company, where he was not free, or when engaged earnestly in conversation, he never gave way to such habits, which proves that they were not involuntary." I still, however, think, that these gestures were involuntary, for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in the public streets.-Boswell,
be censured for mentioning such minute particulars. Everything relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr. Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow, told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, instead of buckles.* When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules have his club; and, by-and-by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and produce a good joke
This imperfect sketch of “the combination and the form” of that wonderful man whom I venerated and loved while in this world, and after whom I gaze with humble hope now that it has pleased Almighty God to call him to a better world, will serve to introduce to the fancy of my readers the capital object of the following Journal, in the course of which I trust they will attain to a considerable degree of acquaintauce with him.
His prejudice against Scotland was announced almost as soon as he began to appear in the world of letters
In his “London,” a poem, are the following nervous lines
“For who would leave, unbribed Hibernia's land,
But all whom hunger spares with age decay.” The truth is, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, he allowed himself to look upon all nations but his own as barbarians : not only Hibernia and Scotland, but Spain, Italy, and France are attacked in the same poem. If he was particularly prejudiced against the Scots, it was because they were more in his way; because he thought their success in England rather exceeded the due proportion of their real merit; and because he could not but see in them that nationality which I believe no liberal-minded Scotsman will deny. He was, indeed, if I may be allowed the phrase, at bottom much of a John Bull; much of a blunt true-born Englishman. There was a stratum of common clay under the rock of marble. He was voraciously fond of good eating; and he had a great deal of that quality called humour, which gives an oiliness and a gloss to every other quality.
I am, I flatter myself, completely a citizen of the world. In my travels through Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Corsica, France, I never felt myself from home; and I sincerely love “
every kindred and tongue and people and nation.” I subscribe to what my late
* It is probable that Boswell, then a young student, had misapprehended the remark of his professor. The pictures of Vandyke and Lely make us familiar with the costume of Milton's days, and in none of their portraits will shoe-buckles be found. The poet, no doubt, conformed to the general fashion, by using silk laces, plain or tagged with silver. The buckle was not introduced till about the time of the Revolution. Ev.
truly learned and philosophical friend Mr. Crosbie said, that the English are better animals than the Scots; they are nearer the sun; their blood is richer and more mellow; but when I humour any of them in an outrageous contempt of Scotland, I fairly own I treat them as children. And thus I have at some moments found myself obliged to treat even Dr. Johnson.
To Scotland, however, he ventured; and he returned from it in great good humour, with his prejudices much lessened, and with very grateful feelings of the hospitality with which he was treated; as is evident from that admirable work, his “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland," which, to my utter astonishment, has been misapprehended, even to rancour, by many of my countrymen.
To have the company of Chambers and Scott, he delayed his journey so long that the Court of Session, which rises on the eleventh of August, was broke up before he got to Edinburgh
On Saturday the fourteenth of August, 1773, late in the evening, I received a note from him, that he was arrived at Boyd's inn, at the head of the Canon-gate. * I went to him directly. He embraced me
• This inn, which bore the sign of the White Horse, was in the palmy days of the picturesque Old Town the first hostelry in the city of Edinburgh. It gradually declined in importance as the New Town and a higher standard of social comfort advanced; but Boyd the landlord was able to retire from business, as Mr. Chambers states in his “Traditions of Edinburgh" with a fortune of several thousand pounds, besides possessing in his establishment (what Johnson would not have credited) napery, or linen, of the
cordially; and I exulted in the thought that I now had him actually in Caledonia. Mr. Scott's amiable manners and attachment to our Socrates at once united me to him. He told me that, before I came in, the Doctor had unluckily had a bad specimen of Scottish cleanli
He then drank no fermented liquor He asked to have his lemonade made sweeter ; upon which the waiter, with his greasy fingers, lifted a lump of sugar, and put it into it. The Doctor, in indignation, threw it out of the window. Scott said he was afraid he would have knocked the waiter down. Mr. Johnson told me that such another trick was played him at the house of a lady in Paris. He was to do me the honour to lodge under my roof.* I regretted sincerely that I had not also a room for Mr. Scott. Mr. Johnson and I walked arm-in-arm up the High-street, to my house in James's-court. It was a dusky night: I could not prevent his being assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh. I heard a late baronet, of some distinction in the political world in the beginning of the present reign, observe, that “walking the streets of Edinburgh at night was pretty perilous, and a good deal odoriferous.” The peril is much abated, by the care which the magistrates have taken to enforce the city laws against throwing foul water from the windows; but from the structure of the houses in the Old Town, which consist of many storeys, in each of which a different family lives, and there being no covered sewers, the odour still continues. A zealous Scotsman would have wished Mr. Johnson to be without one of his five senses upon this occasion. As we marched slowly along, he grumbled in my ear, “I smell you in the dark!" But he acknowledged that the breadth of the street, and the loftiness of the buildings on each side, made a noble appearMy wife had tea ready for him, which it is well known he delighted to drink at all hours, particularly when sitting up late, and of which his able defence against Mr. Jonas Hanway should have obtained him a magnificent reward from the East-India Company.* He showed much complacency upon finding that the mistress of the house was so attentive to his singular habit; and as no man could be more polite when he chose to be so, his address to her was most courteous and engaging; and his conversation soon charmed her into a forgetfulness of his external appearance.
value of £500. The inn was used as a coaching-house, then as a place of entertainment for carriers and humble country visitors; and finally the White Horse was taken down as no longer able to stand competition in any shape. The house is now a miserable dirty and squalid dwelling-or series of dwellings--of the lowest order. Nothing gives one a more vivid impression of the changes effected in Scottish society, tastes and habits, within the last seventy or eighty years, than a visit to the old taverns and closes of the Canongate. Yet in these dark and narrow dens wits and nobles revelled, high-born beauties kept state, and poets, philosophers, and historians studied-many of them withal living to extreme old age, and partaking of much social and festive enjoyment.ED.
* Johnson, in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, written on the third day after his arrival in Edinburgh, describes Boswell's rooms as being level with the ground on one side of the house, and on the other four storeys high. They are now occupied as a printingestablishment. David Hume had shortly before occupied a similar suite of rooms, or flat, higher up in the same pile of building. The situation is airy and commanding, overlooking the Frith; and James's-court was then a patrician and fashionable quarter of the town. The tall massive buildings remain, but the rooms have ceased to appear, as they did to Hume, “very cheerful and even elegant,” or as Johnson considered them, very handsome and spacious."-ED.
I did not begin to keep a regular full journal till some days after we had set out from Edinburgh ; but I have luckily preserved a good many fragments of his Memorabilia from his very first evening in Scotland.
We had, a little before this, had a trial for murder, in which the judges had allowed the lapse of twenty years since its commission as a plea in bar, in conformity with the doctrine of prescription in the civil law, which Scotland and several other countries have adopted He at first disapproved of this; but then he thought there was some thing in it, if there had been for twenty years a neglect to prosecute a crime which was known. He would not allow that a murder, by not being discovered for twenty years, should escape punishment. We talked of the ancient trial by duel. He did not think it so absurd as is generally supposed ; "For,” said he, “it was only allowed when the question was in equilibrio, as when one affirmed and another denied ; and they had a notion that Providence would interfere in favour of him who was in the right. But as it was found that in a duel he who was in the right had not a better chance than he who was in the wrong, therefore society instituted the present mode of trial, and gave the advantage to him who is in the right."
We sat till near two in the morning, having chatted a good while after my
wife left us. She had insisted that, to show all respect to the sage, she would give up her own bed-chamber to him and take a
This I cannot but gratefully mention, as one of a thousand obligations which I owe her, since the great obligation of her being pleased to accept of me as her husband.
* The defence appeared in the “Literary Magazine,” in a review of “A Journal of Eight Days' Journey” by Hanway. In this critique Johnson avows himself to be “a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.” He traces the rise and progress of tea-drinking. Tea, he says, was first imported from Holland by the Earls of Arlington and Ossory in 1666; from their ladies the women of quality learned its use. Its price was then 31. a pound, and continued the same to 1707. In 1715 we began to use green tea, and the practice of drinking it descended to the lower classes of the people.—ED.