Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

three years at Otaheité, or New-2.ealand, in order to 1776. obtain a full acquaintance with people, so totally Ætat. 67different from all that we have ever known, and be satisfied what pure nature can do for man. Johnson. “ What could you learn., Sir ? What can savages tell, but what they then selves have seen? Of the past, or the invisible, they can tell nothing. The inhabitants of Otaheité and New Zealand are not in a state of pure nature; for it is plain they broke off from some other people. Had they grown out of the ground, you might have judged of a state of pure nature. Fanciful people may talk of a mythology being amongst them; but it must be invention. They have once had religion, which has been gradually debased. And what.account of their religion can you suppose to be learnt froni savages ? Only consider, Sir, our own state : our religion is in a book; we have an order of men whose duty it is to teach it, we have one day in the week set apart

for it, and this is in general pretty well ob-, served : Yet ask the first ten gross mer you meet, and hear what they can tell of their religion.”

On Monday, April 29, he and I made an excursion to Bristol, where I was entertained with seeing him enquire upon the spot, into the authenticity of Rowley's poetry,” as I had seen him enquire upon the

spot into the authenticity of “ Ossian's Poetry.” George Catcot, the pewterer, who was as zealouis for Rowley, as Dr. Hugh Blair was for Ossian, (I trust my Reverend friend will excuse the comparison,) attended us at our inn, and with a triumphant air of lively simplicity called out, “ I'll make Dr. Johnson a convert.” Dr. Johnson, at his desire, read aloud some of Chatterton's fabricated verses, while Catco.t

1776. stood at the back of his chair, moving himself like a Ætat.77. pendulum, and beating time with his feet, and now

and then looking into Dr. Johnson's face, wondering that he was not yet convinced. We called on Mr. Barret, the surgeon, and saw some of the originals as they were called, which were executed very artificially ; but from a careful inspection of them, and a consideration of the circumstances with which they were attended, we were quite satisfied of the imposture, which, indeed, has been clearly demonstrated from internal evidence, by several able criticks.

Honest Catcot seemed to pay no attention whatever to any objections, but insisted, as an end of all controversy, that we should go with him to the tower of the church of St. Mary, Redcliff, and view with our own eyes the ancient chest in which the manuscripts were found. To this, Dr. Johnso good-naturedly agreed; and though troubled with a shortness of breathing, laboured up a long flight of steps, till we came to the place where the wonderous chest stood. There, (said Catcot, with a bouncing confident credulity,) there is the very chest itself.” After this ocular demonstration, there was no more to be said. Fle brought to my recollection a Scotch Highlander, a man of learning too, and who had seen the world, attesting, and at the same time giving his reasons for the authenticity of Fingal :-“I have heard all that poem when I was young."--" Have you Sir ? Pray what have you heard ?"_" I have heard Ossian, Oscar, and every one of them.

Johnson said of Chatterton, “ This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my

son

3 Mr. Tyrwhitt, Mr. Warton, Mr. Malone,

[ocr errors]

knowledge. It is wonderful how the whelp has 1776. written such things.

Ætat. 67. We were by no means pleased with our inn at Bristol. " Let us see now, (said I;) how we should describe it.” Johnson was ready with his raillery. “Describe it, Sir ? —Why, is was so bad that Boswell wished to be in Scotland !"

After Dr. Johnson's return to London, I was seve: ral times with him at his house, where I occasionally slept, in the room that had been assigned to me. I dined with him at Dr. Taylor's, at General Oglethorpe's, and at General Paoli's. To avoid a tedious minuteness, I shall group together what I have preserved of his conversation during this period also, without specifying each scene where it passed, exčept one, which will be found so remarkable as certainly to deserve a very particular relation. Where the place or the persons do not contribute to the zest of the conversation, it is unnecessary to encumber my page with mentioning them. To know of what vintage our wine is, enables us to judge of its value, and to drink it with more relish : but to have the produce of each vine of one vineyard, in the same year, kept separate, would serve no purpose. To know that our wine, (to use an adver tising phrase,) is of the stock of an Ambassadour lately deceased," heightens its flavour : but it signifies nothing to know the bin where each bottle was once deposited. “ Garrick (he observed,) does not play the part

of Archer in The Beaux Stratagem' well. The gentleman should break out through the footman, which is not the case as he does it."

E

VOL. III.

1776.

“ Where there is no education, as in savage cour

tries, men will have the upper hand of women. BoÆtat. 67.

dily strength, no doubt contributes to this; but it would be so, exclusive of that; for it is mind that always governs. When it comes to dry understanding, man has the better."

“ The little volumes entitled · Respublicæ,' which are very well done, were a bookseller's work.

« There is much talk of the misery which we cause to the brute creation ; but they are recompensed by existence. If they were not useful to man, and therefore protected by him, they would not be nearly so numerous.” This argument is to be found in the able and benignant Hutchinson's “ Moral Philosophy.” But the question is, whether the animals who endure such sufferings of various kinds, for the service and entertainment of man, would accept of existence upon the terms on which they have it. Madame Sevigne, who, though she had many enjoyments, felt with delicate sensibility the prevalence of misery, complains of the task of existence hay. ing been imposed upon her without her consent.

“ That man is never happy for the present true, that all his relief from unhappiness is only for'getting himself for a little while. Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment."

· Though many men are nominally entrusted with the administration of hospitals and other publick institutions, almost all the good is done by one man, by whom the rest are driven on; owing to confidence in him, and indolence in them.”

“ Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his son, I think, might be made a very pretty book. Take out the

7

is so

66

1

immorality, and it should be put in the hands of 1776. every young gentleman. An elegant manner and

Ætat. 67. casiness of behaviour are acquired gradually and imperceptibly. No man can say ' I'll be genteel.' There are ten genteel women for one genteel man, because they are more restrained. A man without some degree of restraint is insufferable ; but we are all less restrained than women. Were a woman sitting in company to put out her legs before her as most men do, we should be tempted to kick them in." No man was a more attentive and nice observer of behaviour in those in whose company he happened to be, than Johnson; or, however strange it may seem to many, had a higher estimation of its refinements. Lord Eliot informs me, that one day when Johnson and he were at dinner at a gentleman's house in London, upon Lord Chesterfield's. Letters being mentioned, Johnson surprized the company by this sentence : “ Every man of any education would rather be called a rascal, than accused of deficiency in the graces.” Mr. Gibbon, who was present, turned to a lady who knew. Johnson well, and lived much with him, and in his quaint manner, tapping his box, addressed her thus: “Don't you, think, Madam, (looking towards Johnson) that among all your acquaintance, you could find one exception?" The lady smiled, and seemed to acquiesce.

" I read (said he,) Sharpe's letters on Italy over again, when I was at Bath. There is a great deal of matter in them.”

“ Mrs. Williams was angry that Thrale's family did not send regularly to her every time they heard

« AnteriorContinuar »