Imágenes de página

1775., period can possess poetical reputation, a man of Ætat. 66. genius can now hardly acquire it. Johnson. " That

is one of the most sensible things I have ever heard of Goldsmith. It is difficult to get literary fame, and it is every day growing more difficult. Ah, Sir, that should make a man think of securing happiness in another world, which all who try sincerely for it may attain. In comparison of that, how little are all other things! The belief of immortality is im pressed upon all men, and all men act under an impression of it, however they may talk, and though, perhaps, they may be scarcely sensible of it.” I said, it appeared to me that some people had not the least notion of immortality; and I mentioned a distinguished gentleman of our acquaintance. Johnson.

Sir, if it were not for the notion of immortality, he would cut a throat to fill his pockets.” When I quoted this to Beauclerck, who knew much more of the gentleman than we did, he said, in bis acid manner, “He would cut a throat to fill his pockets, if it were not for fear of being hanged.”

Dr. Johnson proceeded: “Sir, there is a great cry about infidelity : but there are, in reality, very few infidels. I have heard a person, originally a Quaker, but now, I am afraid, a Deist, say, that he did not believe there were, in all England, above two hundred ipfidels."

He was pleased to say, “ If you come to settle here, we will have one day in the week on which we will meet by ourselves. That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm quiet interchange of sentiments." In his private register this evening is thus marked, “ Boswell sat with me till night; we had some segious talk." It also appears from the same record, 1775. that after I left him he was occupied in religious Ætat.66. duties, in “ giving Francis, his servant, some disections for preparation to communicate ; in reviewing his life, and resolving on better conduct.”. The humility and piety which he discovers on such occasions, is truely edifying. No saint, however, in the course of his religious warfare, was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves, than Johnson. He said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject, “Sir, Hell is paved with good intentions.”

On Sunday, April 16, being Easter-day, after having attended the solemn service at St. Paul's, I dined with Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Williams. I maintained that Horace was wrong in placing happiness in Nil admirari, for that I thought admiration one of the most agreeable of all our feelings ; and I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. JOHNSON. “Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration--judgement, to estimate things at their true value." I still in-'» sisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgement, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne. Johnson.“ No, Sir; admiration and love are like being intoxicated with cham pagne; judgement and friendship like being

[merged small][ocr errors]


1775. Waller has' hit upon the same thought with you: Ætat. 66. but I don't believe you have borrowed from Waller.

I wish you would enable yourself to borrow more.”

He then took occasion to enlarge on the advantages of reading, and combated the idle superficial notion, that knowledge enough may be acquired in conversation. “The foundation (said he) must be laid by reading. General principles must be had froin books, which, however, must be brought to the test of real life. In conversation you never get a system. What is said upon a subject is to be gathered from a hundred people. The parts of a truth, which a man gets thus, are at such a distance from each other that he never attains to a full view."



“ I HAVE enquired more minutely about the medicine. for the rheumatism, which I am sorry to hear that


still want. The receipt is this : “ Take equal quantities of flour of sulphur, and flour of mustard-seed, make them an electuary with honey or treacle ; and take a bolus as big as a nutmeg several times a day, as you can bear it : drinking after it a quarter of a pint of the infusion of the 1775. root of Lovage.

6 - Amoret's as sweet and good
" As the most delicious food;
" Which but tasted does impart
" Life and gladness to the heart.

“ Sacharissa's beauty's wine,
" Which to madness does decline ;
“ Such a liquor has no brain
" That is mortal can sustain."

Ætat. 66. Lovage, in Ray's Nomenclature,' is Levisticum : perhaps the Botanists may know the Latin name.

“Of this medicine I pretend not to judge. There is all the appearance of its efficacy, which a single instance can afford : the patient was very old, the pain very violent, and the relief, I think speedy and lasting.

“My opinion of alterative medicine is not high, but quid tentasse nocebit? if it does harm, or does no good, it may be omitted; but that it may do good, you have, I hope, reason to think is desired by, Sir, your most affectionate,

« Humble servant, " April 17, 1775.



On Tuesday, April 18, he and I were engaged to

with Sir Joshua Reynolds to dine with Mr. Cambridge, at his beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames, near Twickenham. Dr. Johnson's tardiness was such, that Sir Joshua, who had an appointment at Richmond, early in the day, was obliged to go by himself on horseback, leaving his coach to Johnson and me. Johnson was in such good spirits,

every thing seemed to please him as we drove along.

Our conversation turned on a variety of subjects. He thought portrait-painting an improper employment for a woman. “ Publick practice of any art, (he observed,) and staring in men's faces, is very indelicate in a female.” I happened to start a question, whether when a man knows that some of his

that ever



[ocr errors]

1775. intimate friends are invited to the house of another

friend, with whom they are all equally intimate, he Ætat. 66.

may join them without an invitation. JOHNSON.
“ No, Sir; he is not to go when he is not invited.
They may be invited on purpose to abuse him.”

As a curious instance how little a man knows, or
wishes to know, his own character in the world, or,
rather as a convincing proof that Johnson's rough-
ness was only external, and did not proceed from
his heart, I insert the following dialogue. JOHNSON,
6 It is wonderful, Sir, how rare a quality good hu-
mour is in life. We meet with very few good hu-
moured men.” I mentioned four of our friends,
none of whom he would allow to be good humoured.
One was acid, another was muddy, and to the others
he had objections which have escaped me. Then,
shaking his head and stretching himself at ease in the
coach, and smiling with much complacency, he tur-
ned to me and said. "I look upon myself as a good
humoured fellow.” The epithet fellow, applied to
the great Lexicographer, the stately Moralist, the
masterly Critick, as if he had been Sam Johnson, a
mere pleasant companion, was highly diverting; and
this light notion of himself struck me with wonder.
I answered, also smiling, “ No, no, Sir; that will
not do. You are good natured, but not good hu-
moured: you are irascible. You have not patience
with folly and absurdity. I believe


don them, if there were time to deprecate your ven-
geance ; but punishment follows so quick after sen-
tence, that they cannot escape."

I had brought with me a great bundle of Scotch magazines and news-papers, in which his «


« AnteriorContinuar »