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1772. or, as they make it giorno ; which is readily conÆtat. 63. ”
tracted into giour, or jour.” He observed, that the Bohemian language, was true Sclavonick. The Swede said, it had some similarity with the German. Johnson. “Why, Sir, to be sure, such parts of Sclavonia as confine with Germany, will borrow German words; and such parts as confine with Tartary will borrow Tartar words."
He said, he never had it properly ascertained that the Scotch Highlanders and the Irish understood each other. I told him that niy Cousin Colonel Graham, of the Royal Highlanders, whom I met at Drogheda, told me they did. Johnson. “Sir, if the Highlanders understood Irish, why translate the New Testament into Erse, as was lately done at Edinburgh, when there is an Irish translation ?” BosWELL. “ Although the Erse and Irish are both dialects of the same language, there may be a good deal of diversity between them, as between the different dialects in Italy.”—The Swede went away, and Mr. Johnson continued his reading of the papers. I said " I am afraid, Sir, it is troublesome.” “Why, Sir, (said he), I do not take much delight in it; but I'll go through it.”
We went to the Mitre, and dined in the room where he and I first supped together. He gave me great hopes of my cause. “Sir, (said he,) the government of a schoolmaster is somewhat of the nature of military government; that is to say, it must be arbitrary, it must be exercised by the will of one man, according to particular circumstances. You must show some learning upon this occasion. You must show, that a schoolmaster has a prescriptive right to beat; and that an action of assault and battery
cannot be admitted against him unless there is some 1772. great access, some barbarity. This man has maimed
Ætat. 63, none of his boys. They are all left with the full exercise of their corporeal faculties. In our schools in England, many boys have been maimed; yet I never heard of an action against a schoolmaster on that account. Puffendorff, I think, maintains the right of a schoolmaster to beat his scholars.
On Saturday, March 27, I introduced to him Sir Alexander Macdonald, with whom he had expressed a wish to be acquainted. He received him very courteously.
Sir Alexander observed, that the Chancellors in England are chosen from views much inferiour to the office, being chosen from temporary political views. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, in such a government as ours, no man is appointed to an office because he is the fittest for it, nor hardly in any
other government; because there are so many connections and dependencies to be studied. A despotick prince may choose a man to an office, merely because he is the fittest for it. The King of Prussia may do it." SIR A. “ I think, Sir, almost all great lawyers, such at least as have written upon law, have known only law, and nothing else.” Johnson. “Why no, Sir; Judge Hale was a great lawyer, and wrote upon law; and yet he knew a great many other things, and has written upon other things. Selden too.” Sir A. “Very true, Sir; and Lord Bacon. But was not Lord Coke a mere lawyer ?” Johnson. “Why, I am afraid he was ; but he would have taken it very ill if you had told him so.
He would have prosecuted you for scandal.” Boswell. “ Lord Mansfield is not a mere lawyer,” Johnson. “ No, Sir.
As to pre
1772. I never was in Lord Mansfield's company; but
Lord Mansfield, was distinguished at the University.
Scotchman ever attains to a perfect English pronunciation.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, few of them do, because they do not persevere after acquiring a certain degree of it. But, Sir, there can be no doubt that they may attain to a perfect English pronunciation, if they will. We find how near they come to it; and certainly, a man who conquers nineteen parts of the Scottish accent, may conquer the twentieth. But, Sir, when a man has got the better of nine tenths he grows weary, he relaxes his diligence, he finds he has corrected bis accent so far as not to be disagreeable, and he no longer desires his friends to tell him when he is wrong; nor does he choose to be told. Sir, when people watch me narrowly, and I do not watch myself, they will find me out to be of a particular county. In the same manner, Dunning may be found out to be a Deronshire man. So most
Scotchmen may be found out.
be found out. But, Sir, little aber- 1772. sations are of no disadvantage. I never catched
Ætat. 63. Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose was past five-and-twenty before he came to London."
Upon another occasion I talked to him on this subject, having myself taken some pains to improve my pronunciation, by the aid of the late Mr. Love, of Drury-lane theatre, when he was a player at Edinburgh, and also of old Mr. Sheridan. Johnson said to me “Sir, your pronunciation is not offensive.” With this concession I was pretty well satisfied; and let me give my countrymen of North-Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this respect; not to speak High English, as we are apt to call what is far removed from the Scotch, but which is by no means good English, and makes, “the fools who use it,” truly ridiculous. Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth of an unaffected English Gentleman. A studied and factitious pronunciation, which requires perpetual attention, and imposes perpetual constraint, is exceedingly disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were all exactly alike. I could name some gentlemen of Ireland, to whom a slight proportion of the accent and recitative of that country is an advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland. I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous member of Parliament from that country; though it has been well observed, that “ it has been of no small use to him ; as it rouses the attention of
1772. the House by its uncommonness; and is equal to Ætat. 63. tropes and figures in a good English speaker.” I
would give as an instance of what I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot; and may I presume to add that of the present Earl of Marchmont, who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a shop in London, where he was not known, said to him, “ I suppose, Sir, you are an American.” Why so, Sir :” (said his Lordship.)
" Because, Sir, (replied the shopkeeper,) you speak neither English nor Scotch, but something different from both, which I conclude is the language of America."
Boswell. “ It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation.” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the accent of words, if you can but remember them." Boswell. “ But, Sir, we want marks to ascertain the pronunciation of the vowels. Sheridan, I believe, has finished such a work.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, consider how much easier it is to learn a language by the car, than by any marks. Sheridan's Dictionary may do very well; but you cannot always carry it about with you: and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary. It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw. It is an admirable sword, to be sure: but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it. Besides, Sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English ? He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman: and if he says he will fix it after the example of the best company, why they differ among
themselves. I remember an instance : when I published the Plan for my Dictionary, Lord