Imágenes de página


rack, who is resolved to kill himself. When Eustace Budgel was walking down to the Thames, determin

Ætat. 64. ed to drown himself, he might, if he pleased, without any apprehension of danger, have turned aside, and first set fire to St. James's palace.”

On Tuesday, April 27, Mr. Beauclerk and I called on him in the morning. As we walked up Johnson's court, I said, “I have a veneration for this court;' and was glad to find that Beauclerk had the same reverential enthusiasm. We found him alone. Wc talked of Mr. Andrew Stewart's elegant and plausible Letters to Lord Mansfield: a copy of which had been sent by the authour to Dr. Johnson. Johnson.

They have not answered the end. They have not been talked of; I have never heard of them. This is owing to their not being sold. People seldom read a book which is given to them; and few are given. The way to spread a work is to sell it at a low price. No man will send to buy a thing that costs even sixpence, without an intention to read it.” BOSWELL. “ May it not be doubted, Sir, whether it be proper to publish letters, arraigning the ultimate decision of an important cause by the supreme judicature of the nation?" Johnson. No, Sir, I do not think it was wrong to publish these letters. If they are thought to do harm, why not answer them? But they will do no harın, if Mr. Douglas be indeed the son of Lady Jane he cannot be hurt : if he be not her son, and yet has the great estate of the family of Douglas, he may well submit to have a pamphlet against him by Andrew Stuart. Sir, I think such a publication does good, as it does good to show us the possibilities of human life. And, Sir, you will not say that the Douglas cause was a cause of easy decision, when it

1773. divided your Court as much as it could do, to be de

termined at all. When your Judges are seven and Ætat. 61.

seven, the casting vote of the President must be given on one side or other; no matter, for my argument, on which; one or the other must be taken; as when I am to move, there is no matter which leg I move first. And then, Sir it was otherwise determined here. No, Sir, a more dubious determination of

any question cannot be imagined."}

He said, “ Goldsmith should not be for ever attempting to shine in conversation : he lias not temper for it, he is so much mortified when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of chance, a man may be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his wit. Now Goldsmith's putting himself against another, is like a man laying a hundred to one who cannot spare the hundred. It is not worth a man's while. A man should not lay a hundred to one, unless he can easily spare it, though he has a hundred chances for him : he can get but a guinca, and he may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man of his literary reputation : if he does not get the better, he is miserably vexed.”.

3 I regretted that Dr. Johnson never took the trouble to study a question which interested nations. He would not even read a pamphlet which I wrote upon it, entitled “ The essence of the Douglas Cause;" which, I have reason to flatter myself, had considerable effect in favour of Mr. Douglas : of whose legitimate filiation I was then, and am still, firmly convinced. Let me add, that no fact can be more respectably ascertained, than by the judgement of the most august tribunal in the world; a judgement in which Lord Mansfield and Lord Camden united in 1769, and from which only five of a numerous body entered a protest.

66 For

Johnson's own superlative powers of wit set him 1773. above any risk of such uneasiness. Garrick had re- Ætat. 64. marked to me of him, a few days before,' “ Rabelais and all other wits are nothing compared with him. You may be diverted by them; but Johnson gives you a forcible hug, and shakes laughter out of you, whether


will or no." Goldsmith, however, was often very fortunate in his witty contests, even when he entered the lists with Johnson himself. Sir Joshua Reynolds was in company with them one day, when Goldsmith said, that he thought he could write a good fable, mentioned the simplicity which that kind of composition requires, and observed, that in most fables the animals introduced seldom talk in character. instance, (said he,) the fable of the little fishes, who say birds fly over their heads, and envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be changed into birds. The skill (continued he,) consists in making them talk like little fishes." While he indulged himself in this fanciful reverie, he observed Johnson shaking his sides, and laughing. Upon which he smartly proceeded, “ Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think ; for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales.”

Johnson, though remarkable for his great variety of composition, never exercised his talents in fable, except we allow his beautiful tale published in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies to be of that species. I have however, found among his manuscript collections the following sketch of one :

“ Glow-worm * lying in the garden saw a candle

* [It has already been observed, that one of his first Essays was

1773. in a neighbouring palace,--and complained of the Ætat. 64.

littleness of his own light ;--another observed—wait a little ;-soon dark,—have outlasted to (many) of these glaring lights which are only brighter as they haste to nothing."

On Thursday, April 29, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe’s, where were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, and Mr. Thrale. I was very desirous to get Dr. Johnson absolutely fixed in his resolution to go with me to the Hebrides this year ; and I told him that I had received a letter from Dr. Robertson the historian, upon the subject, with which he was much pleased, and now talked in such a manner of his long-intended tour, that I was satisfied he meant to fulfil his engagement.

The custom of eating dogs at Otaheite being mentioned, Goldsmith observed, that this was also a custom in China; that a dog-butcher is as common there as any other butcher; and that when he walks abroad all the dogs fall on him. Johnson. “ That is not owing to his killing dogs, Sir. I remember a butcher at Lichfield, whom a dog that was in the house where I lived, always attacked. It is the smell of carnage which provokes this, let the animals he has killed be what they may.” GOLDSMITH. “ Yes, there is a general abhorrence in animals at the signs of massacre. If you put a tub full of blood into a stable, the horses are like to go mad.” Johnson.“) doubt that." GOLDSMITH. " Nay, Sir, it is a fact well authenticated." THRALE. “You had better prove it before you put it into your book on natural history. You may do it in my stable if you will.”


a Latia Poem on a glow-worm ; but whether it be any where extant, has noi been ascertained. M.]

Johnson. "Nay, Sir, I would not have him prove it. 1773. If he is content to take his information from others,

Ætat. 64. he may get through his book with little trouble, and without much endangering his reputation. But if he makes experiments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end to them ; his erroneous assertions would then fall upon himself; and he might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular.”

The character of Mallet having been introduced, and spoken of slightingly by Goldsmith ; Johnson. " Why, Sir, Mallet had talents enough to keep his literary reputation alive as long as he himself lived ; and that, let me tell you, is a good deal.” Gold

66 But I cannot agree that it was so. His literary reputation was dead long before his natural death. I consider an authour's literary reputation to be alive only while his name will ensure a good price for his copy from the booksellers.

from the booksellers. I will get you (to Johnson,) a hundred guineas for any thing whatever that you shall write, if you put your name


to it.”

Dr. Goldsmith's new play, “She stoops to conquer," being mentioned ; Johnson. “I know of no comedy for many years that has so much exhilarated an audience, that has answered so much the

great end of comedy-making an audience merry."

Goldsmith having said, that Garrick's compliment to the Queen, which he introduced into the play of « The Chances, which he had altered and revised this year, was mean and gross flattery ;-Johnson.

Why, Sir, I would not write, I would not give solemnly under my hand, a character beyond what I thought really true; but a speech on the stage, let

« AnteriorContinuar »