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On the 20th of September, I defended myself against his suspicion of me, which I did not deserve; and added, “ Pray, let us write frequently. A whim strikes me, that we should send off a sheet once a week, like a stage-coach, whether it be full or not; nay, though it should be empty. The very sight of your handwriting would comfort me; and were a sheet to be thus sent regularly, we should much oftener convey something, were it only a few kind words."
My friend, Colonel James Stuart, second son of the Earl of Bute, who had distinguished himself as a good officer of the Bedfordshire militia, had taken a public-spirited resolution to serve his country in its difficulties, by raising a regular regiment, and taking the command of it himself. This, in the heir of the immense property of Wortley, was highly honourable. Having been in Scotland recruiting, he obligingly asked me to accompany him to Leeds, then the head-quarters of his corps; from thence to London for a short time, and afterwards to other places to which the regiment might be ordered. Such an offer, at a time of the year when I had full leisure, was very pleasing; especially as I was to accompany a man of sterling good sense, information, discernment, and conviviality; and was to have a second crop in one year of London and Johnson. Of this I informed my illustrious friend, in characteristical warm terms, in a letter dated the 30th of September, from Leeds.
On Monday, October 4, I called at his house before he was up. He sent for me to his bed-side, and expressed his satisfaction at this incidental meeting, with as much vivacity as if he had been in the gaiety of youth. He called briskly, "Frank, go and get coffee, and let us breakfast in splendour."
During this visit to London I had several interviews with him, which it is unnecessary to distinguish particularly. I consulted him as to the appointment of guardians to my children in case of my death. “Sir,” said he, “do not appoint a number of guardians. When there are many, they trust one to another, and the business is neglected. I would advise you to choose only one; let him be a man of respectable character, who, for his own credit, will do what is right; let him be a rich man, so that he may be under no temptation to take advantage; and let him be a man of business, who is used to conduct affairs with ability and expertness, to whom, therefore, the execution of the trust would not be burdensome."
On Sunday, October 10, we dined together at Mr. Strahan's. The conversation having turned on the prevailing practice of going to the East Indies in quest of wealth ;-JOHNSON: "A man had better have
the same kind appears :-" Aug. 7, 1779. Partem brachii dextri carpo proximam et cutem pectoris circa mamillam dextram rasi, ut notum fieret quanto temporis pili renovarentur." And, "Aug. 15, 1783. I cut from the vine 41 leaves, which weighed five oz. and a-half and eight scruples. I lay them upon my bookcase, to see what weight they will lose by drying."-BosWELL.
10,000l. at the end of ten years passed in England, than 20,000l. at the end of ten years passed in India, because you must compute what you give for money; and a man who has lived ten years in India, has given up ten years of social comfort, and all those advantages which arise from living in England. The ingenious Mr. Brown, distinguished by the name of "Capability Brown," told me that he was once at the seat of Lord Clive, who had returned from India with great wealth; and that he showed him at the door of his bed-chamber a large chest, which he said he had once had full of gold; upon which Brown observed, 'I am glad you can bear it so near your bed-chamber.'"
We talked of the state of the poor in London.-JOHNSON: "Saunders Welch, the Justice, who was once high-constable of Holborn, and had the best opportunities of knowing the state of the poor, told me that I under-rated the number, when I computed that twenty a-week, that is, above a thousand a-year, died of hunger; not absolutely of immediate hunger, but of the wasting and other diseases which are the consequences of hunger. This happens only in so large a place as London, where people are not known. What we are told about the great sums got by begging is not true; the trade is overstocked. And, you may depend upon it, there are many who cannot get work. A particular kind of manufacture fails; those who have been used to work at it, can, for sometime, work at nothing else. You meet a man begging; you charge him with idleness: he says, 'I am willing to labour. Will you give me work?'-'I cannot.' 'Why then you have no right to charge me with idleness.'"
We left Mr. Strahan's at seven, as Johnson had said he intended to go to evening prayers. As we walked along he complained of a little gout in his toe, and said, "I shan't go to prayers to-night; I shall go to-morrow: whenever I miss church on a Sunday, I resolve to go another day. But I do not always do it." This was a fair exhibition of that vibration between pious resolutions and indolence, which many of us have too often experienced.
I went home with him, and we had a long, quiet conversation. I read him a letter from Dr. Hugh Blair concerning Pope (in writing. whose life he was now employed), which I shall insert as a literary curiosity.1
1 The Rev. Dr. Law, Bishop of Carlisle, in the Preface to his valuable edition of Archbishop King's Essay on the Origin of Evil," mentions that the principles maintained in it had been adopted by Pope in his "Essay on Man;" and adds, "The fact, notwithstanding such denial (Bishop Warburton's), might have been strictly verified by an unexceptionable testimony, viz., that of the late Lord Bathurst, who saw the very same system of the rò piλric (takeu from the Archbishop) in Lord Bolingbroke's own hand, lying before Mr. Pope, while he was composing his Essay." This is respectable evidence; but that of Dr. Blair is more direct from the fountain-head, as well as more full. Let me add to it that of Dr. Joseph Warton:-
The late Lord Bathurst repeatedly assured me that he had read the whole scheme of "The Essay on Man,' in the handwriting of Bolingbroke, and drawn up in a series of propositions, which Pope was to versify and illustrate."-Essays on the Genius and Writings of Pope, vol. ii. p. 62-BOSWELL.
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Broughton Park, Sept. 21, 1779.
"In the year 1763, being at London, I was carried by Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, to dine at old Lord Bathurst's; where we found the late Mr. Mallett, Sir James Porter, who had been Ambassador at Constantinople, the late Dr. Macaulay, and two or three more. The conversation turning on Mr. Pope, Lord Bathurst told us, that 'The Essay on Man' was originally composed by Lord Bolingbroke in prose, and that Mr. Pope did no more than put it into verse: that he had read Lord Bolingbroke's manuscript in his own handwriting, and remembered well, that he was at a loss whether most to admire the elegance of Lord Bolingbroke's prose, or the beauty of Mr. Pope's verses. When Lord Bathurst told this, Mr. Mallet bade me attend, and remember this remarkable piece of information; as, by the course of nature, I might survive his Lordship, and be a witness of his having said so. The conversation was indeed too remarkable to be forgotten. A few days after, meeting with you, who were then also at London, you will remember that I mentioned to you what had passed on this subject, as I was much struck with this anecdote. But what ascertains my recollection of it beyond doubt is, that being accustomed to keep a journal of what passed when I was at London, which I wrote out every evening, I find the particulars of the above information, just as I have now given them, distinctly marked; and am thence enabled to fix this conversation to have passed on Friday, the 22nd of April, 1763.
"I remember also distinctly, (though I have not for this the authority of my Journal,) that in the conversation going on concerning Mr. Pope, I took notice of a report which had been sometimes propagated that he did not understand Greek. Lord Bathurst said to me that he knew that to be false; for the part of the 'Iliad' was translated by Mr. Pope in his house in the country; and that in the morning when they assembled at breakfast, Mr. Pope used frequently to repeat, with great rapture, the Greek lines which he had been translating, and then to give them his version of them, and to compare them together.
"If these circumstances can be of any use to Dr. Johnson, you have my full liberty to give them to him. I beg you will, at the same time, present to him my most respectful compliments, with best wishes for his success and fame in all his literary undertakings. I am, with great respect, my dearest Sir,
"Your most affectionate,
"And obliged humble servant,
JOHNSON: "Depend upon it, Sir, this is too strongly stated. Pope may have had from Bolingbroke the philosophic stamina of his Essay; and admitting this to be true, Lord Bathurst did not intentionally falsify. But the thing is not true in the latitude that Blair seems to imagine; we are sure that the poetical imagery, which makes a great part of the poem, was Pope's own. It is amazing, Sir, what deviations there are from precise truth, in the account which is given of almost every ing.
I told Mrs. Thrale, 'You have so little anxiety about truth, that you never tax your memory with the exact thing.' Now, what is the use of the memory to truth, if one is careless of exactness? Lord Hailes's 'Annals of Scotland' are very exact; but they contain mere dry particulars. They are to be considered as a Dictionary. You know such things are there; and may be looked at when you please. Robertson paints; but the misfortune is, you are sure he does not know the people whom he paints; so you cannot suppose a likeness. Characters should never be given by an historian, unless he knew the people whom he describes, or copies from those who knew them."
BOSWELL: 66 Why, Sir, do people play this trick which I observe now, when I look at your grate, putting the shovel against it to make the fire burn?" JOHNSON: "They play the trick, but it does not make the fire burn. There is a better: setting the poker perpendicularly up at right angles with the grate. In the days of superstition they thought as it made a cross with the bars, it would drive away the witch."
BOSWELL: "By associating with you, Sir, I am always getting an accession of wisdom. But perhaps a man, after knowing his own character-the limited strength of his own mind-should not be desirous of having too much wisdom, considering-quid valeant humeri-how little he can carry." JOHNSON: "Sir, be as wise as you can; let a man be aliis lætus, sapiens sibi :
"Though pleased to see the dolphins play,
You may be wise in your study in the morning, and gay in company at a tavern in the evening. Every man is to take care of his own wisdom and his own virtue, without minding too much what others think."
He said, "Dodsley first mentioned to me the scheme of an English Dictionary; but I had long thought of it." BOSWELL: "You did not know what you were undertaking." JOHNSON: "Yes, Sir, I knew very well what I was undertaking,—and very well how to do it,—and have done it very well." BOSWELL: "An excellent climax! and it has availed you. In your Preface you say, 'What would it avail me in this gloom of solitude? You have been agreeably mistaken."
In his life of Milton, he observes, "I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great man by his biographers: every house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it were an injury to neglect naming any place that he honoured by his presence." I had, before I read this observation, been desirous of showing that respect to Johnson by various inquiries. Finding him
1 It certainly does make the fire burn. By repelling the air, it throws a blast on the fire, and so performs the part, in some degree, of a blower or bellows. KEARNEY.
2 "The Spleen," a poem.-BoSWELL.
this evening in a very good humour, I prevailed on him to give me an exact list of his places of residence, since he entered the metropolis as an author, which I subjoin in a note.1
I mentioned to him a dispute between a friend of mine and his lady, concerning conjugal infidelity, which my friend had maintained was by no means so bad in the husband as in the wife. JOHNSON: "Your friend was in the right, Sir. Between a man and his Maker it is a different question: but between a man and his wife, a husband's infidelity is nothing. They are connected by children, by fortune, by serious considerations of community. Wise married women don't trouble themselves about infidelity in their husbands." BOSWELL: "To be sure there is a great difference between the offence of infidelity in a man and that of his wife." JOHNSON: "The difference is boundless. The man imposes no bastards upon his wife."
Here it may be questioned, whether Johnson was entirely in the right. I suppose it will not be controverted, that the difference in the degree of criminality is very great, on account of consequences; but still it may be maintained, that, independent of moral obligation, infidelity is by no means a light offence in a husband; because it must hurt a delicate attachment, in which a mutual constancy is implied, with such refined sentiments as Massinger has exhibited in his play of "The Picture." Johnson probably at another time would have admitted this opinion. And let it be kept in remembrance, that he was very careful not to give any encouragement to irregular conduct. A gentleman's not adverting to the distinction made by him upon this subject, supposed a case of singular perverseness in a wife, and heedlessly said, "That then he thought a husband might do as he pleased with a safe conscience.” JOHNSON: "Nay, Sir, this is wild indeed (smiling); you must consider that fornication is a crime in a single man; and you cannot have more liberty by being married.”
He this evening expressed himself strongly against the Roman Catholics; observing, In everything in which they differ from us they are wrong." He was even against the invocation of saints; in short, he was in the humour of opposition.
Having regretted to him that I had learnt little Greek, as is too generally the case in Scotland; that I had for a long time hardly applied at all to the study of that noble language, and that I was desirous of being told by him what method to follow; he recommended to me as easy helps, Sylvanus's "First Book of the Iliad;" Dawson's
11. Exeter-street, off Catherine-street, Strand.
Hanover-square. 4. Castle-street, Cavendish
square, No. 6.
7. Strand, again.
13. Staple Inn.
14. Gray's Inn.
15. Inner Temple-lane, No. 1.
16. Johnson's-court, No. 7.
17. Bolt-court, No. S.