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and appearing to be clearly of one opinion when you 1768. are in reality of another opinion, does not such dis
tat. 59. simulation impair one's honesty? Is there not some danger that a lawyer may put on the same mask in common life, in the intercourse with his friends ?” Johnson. “Why no, Sir. Every body knows you are paid for affecting warmth for your client; and it is, therefore, properly no dissimulation : the moment you come from the bar you resume your usual behaviour. Sir, a man will no more carry the artifice of the bar into the common intercourse of society, than a man who is paid for tumbling upon his hands will continue to tumble upon his hands when he should walk on his feet."
Talking of some of the modern plays, he said, “ False Delicacy” was totally void of character. He praised Goldsmith's “ Good-natured Man;" said, it was the best comedy that had appeared since “ The Provoked Husband," and that there had not been of late any such character exhibited on the stage as that of Croaker. I observed it was the Suspirius of his Rambler. He said, Goldsmith had owned he had borrowed it from thence. “Sir, (continued he,) there is all the difference in the world between characters of nature and characters of manners; and there is the difference between the characters of Fielding and those of Richardson. Characters of manners are very entertaining; but they are to be understood, by a more superficial observer, than characters of nature, where a man must dive into the recesses of the human heart."
It always appeared to me that he estimated the compositions of Richardson too highly, and that he had an unreasonable prejudice against Fielding. In
1768. comparing those two writers, he used this expression;
" that there was as great a difference between them Ætat. 59:
as between a man who knew how a watch was made, and a man who could tell the hour by looking on the dial-plate.” This was a short and figurative state of his distinction between drawing characters of nature and characters only of manners. But I cannot help being of opinion, that the neat watches of Fielding are as well constructed as the large clocks of Richardson, and that his dial-plates are brighter. Fielding's characters, though they do not expand themselves so widely in dissertation, are as just pictures of human nature, and I will venture to say, have more striking features, and nicer touches of the pencil; and though Johnson used to quote with approbation a saying of Richardson's, “ that the virtues of Fielding's heroes were the vices of a truly good man,” I will venture to add, that the moral tendency of Fielding's writings, though it does not encourage a strained and rarely possible virtue, is ever favourable to honour and honesty, and cherishes the benevolent and generous affections. . He who is as good as Fielding would make him, is an amiable member of society, and may be led on by more regulated instructors, to a higher state of ethical perfection.
Johnson proceeded : “ Even Sir Francis Wronghead is a character of manners, though drawn with great humour.” He then repeated, very happily, all Sir Francis's credulous account to Manly of his being with “ the great man,” and securing a place. I asked him, if “ The Suspicious Husband” did not furnish a well-drawn character, that of Ranger. Johnson. “ No, Sir; Ranger is just a rake, a mere rake, and a lively young fellow, but no character:''
The great Douglas Cause, was at this time a very 1768. general subject of discussion. I found he had not Ætat. 59. studied it with much attention, but had only heard parts of it occasionally. He, however, talked of it, and said, “ I am of opinion that positive proof of fraud should not be required of the plaintiff, but that the Judges should decide according as probability shall appear to preponderate, granting to the defendant the presumption of filiation to be strong in his fa
And I think too, that a good deal of weight should be allowed to the dying declarations, because they were spontaneous. There is a great difference between what is said without our being urged to it, and what is said from a kind of compulsion. If I praise a man's book without being asked my opinion of it, that is honest praise, to which one may trust. But if an authour asks me if I like his book, and I give him something like praise, it must not be taken as my real opinion.”
“ I have not been troubled for a long time with authours. desiring my opinion of their works. I used once to be sadly plagued with a man who wrote verses, but who literally had no other notion of a verse, but that it consisted of ten syllables.
Lay your knife and your fork, across your plate, was to him a verse :
Lay yður knife and your fork, across your plāte, As he wrote a great number of verses, he sometimes by chance made good ones, thought he did not know it.”
He renewed his promise of coming to Scotland, and going with me to the Hebrides, but said he would now content himself with seeing one or two of the most curious of them. He said " Macaulay, who
1768. It is but justice both to him and Dr. Robertson to
add, that though he indulged himself in this sally of Ætat. 59.
wit; he had too good taste not to be fully sensible of the merits of that admirable work.
An essay, written by Mr. Deane, a Divine of the Church of England, maintaining the future life of brutes, by an explication of certain parts of the scriptures, was mentioned, and the doctrine insisted on by a gentleman who seemed fond of curious lation. Johnson, who did not like to hear of any thing concerning a future state which was not authorised by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discouraged this talk ; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an opportunity to give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So, when the poor speculatist, with a serious metaphysical pensive face, addressed him, “ But really, Sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know what to think of him.” Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought which beamed in his eye, turned quickly round, and replied, " True, Sir : and when we see a very foolish fellow, we don't know what to think of him.” He then rose up,
strided to the fire, and stood for some time laughing and exulting.
I told him that I had several times when in Italy, seen the experiment of placing a scorpion within a circle of burning coals; that it ran round and round in extreme pain ; and finding no way to escape, retired to the centre, and like a true Stoick philosopher, darted its sting into its head, and thus at once freed itself from its woes. " This must end 'em.” I said, this was a curious fact, as it shewed deliberate suicide in a reptile. Johnson would not acimit the
fact.' He said, Maupertuis was of opinion that it 1768. does not kill itself, but dies of the heat ; that it gets Ætat. 59. to the centre of the circle, as the coolest place ; that its turning its tail in upon its head is merely a convulsion, and that it does not sting itself. He said he would be satisfied if the great anatomist Morgagni, after dissecting a scorpion on which the experiment had been tried, should certify that its sting had penetrated into its head. )
He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. “ That woodcocks, (said he,) fly over to the northern countries, is proved, because they have been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A number of themi conglobulate together, by flying round and round, and then all in a heap throw themselves under water, and lye in the bed of a river." He told us, one of his first essays was a Latin poem - upon the glow-worm, I am sorry I did not ask where it was to be found.
3 I should think it impossible not to wonder at the variety of Johrison's reading, however desultory it might have been. Who could have imagined that the High Church of England-man would be so prompt in quoting Mauperturs, who, I am sorry to think, stands in the list of those unfortunate mistaken men, who call themselves esprits forts. I have, however, a high respect for that Philosopher whoin the Great Frederick of Prussia loved and hor noured, and addressed pathetically in one of his Poems,
Maupertuis cher Maupertuis
" Que notre vie est peu de chose.” There was in Maupertuis a vigour and yet a tenderness of sentiment, united with strong intellectual powers, and uncommon ardour of soul. Would he had been a Christian! I cannot help earnestly venturing to hope that he is one now.
[Maupertuis died in 1759 at the age of 62, in the arms of the Bei noullis, tres Chrebiennement. B.]