« السابقةمتابعة »
him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return, and having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill."
My next meeting with Johnson was on Friday the 1st of July, when he and I and Dr. Goldsmith supped at the Mitre. I was before this time pretty well acquainted with Goldsmith, who was one of the brightest ornaments of the Johnsonian school. Goldsmith's respectful attachment to Johnson was then at its height; for his own literary reputation had not yet distinguished him so much as to excite a vain desire of competition with his great Master. He had increased my admiration of the goodness of Johnson's heart, by incidental remarks in the course of conversation, such as, when I mentioned Mr. Levet, whom he entertained under his roof, "He is poor and honest, which is recommendation enough to Johnson;" and when I wondered that he was very kind to a man of whom I had heard a very bad character, "He is now become miserable, and that insures the protection of Johnson."
Goldsmith attempting this evening to maintain, I suppose from an affectation of paradox, "that knowledge was not desyrable on its own account, for it often was a source of unhappiness." Johnson. "Why, Sir, that knowledge may in some cases produce unhappiness, 1 allow. But, upon the whole, knowledge, per se, is certainly an object which every man would wish to attain, although, perhaps, he may uot take the trouble necessary for attaining it."
Dr. John Campbell, the celebrated political and biographical writer, being mentioned, Johnson said, "Campbell is a man of much knowledge, and has a good share of imagination. His ' Hermippus Uedivivu*' is very entertaining, as an account of the Hermetic philosophy, and as furnishing a curious history of the extravagancies of the human mind. If it were merely imaginary, it would be nothing at al). Campbell is not always rigidly careful of truth in his conversation; but 1 do not believe there is any thing of this carelessness in his books. Campbell is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many years ;J but he never passes a church without pulling off his
% I am inclined to think that he was misinformed as to this circumstance. 1 own I am jealous for my worthy friend Dr. John Campbell. For though Milton could without remorse absent himself from public worship, I cannot. On the contrary, I have the same habitual impressions upon my mind, with those of a truly venerable Judge, who said to Mr. Langton, "Friend Langton, if I have not been at church on Sunday, I do not feel myself easy." Dr. Campbell was a sincerely religious man. Lord Macartney, who is eminent for his variety of knowledge, and attention to men of talents, and knew him well, told me, that when he called on him in a morning, he found him reading a chapter in the Greek New Testament, which he informed his Lordship was hi*
hat. This shews that he has good principles. I used to go pretty often to Campbell's on a Sunday evening, till I began to consider that the shoals of Scotchmen mho flocked about him might probably say, when anything of mine was well done, 'Ay, ay, he has learnt this of Cawmell!" He talked very contemptuously of Churchill's poetry, observing, that '' it had a temporary currency, only from its audacity of abuse, and being filled with living names, und that it would sink into oblivion." I ventured to hint that he was not quite a fair judge, as Churchill had attacked him violently. Johnson. "Nay, Sir, 1 am a very fair judge. He did not attack me violently till he found I did not like his poetry; and his attack on me shall not prevent me from continuing to say what I think of him, from an apprehension that it may be ascribed to resentment. No, Sir, I called the fellow a blockhead at first, and I will call him a blockhead still. However, I will acknowledge that 1 have a better opinion of him now, than I once had; for he has shewn more fertility than I expected. To be sure, he is a tree that cannot produce good fruit: he only bears crabs. But, Sir, a tree that produces a great many crabs is better than a tree which produces ouly a few."
Bonnell Thornton had just published a burlesque "Ode on St. Cecilia's day," adapted to the ancient British music, viz. the suit-box, the jewsharp, the marrow-bones and cleaver, the hum-strum or hurdy-gurdy, tec. Johnson praised its humour, and seemed much divtrted with it. He repeated the following passage:
"In strains more exalted the salt-box shall join,
1 mentioned the periodical paper called " The Connoisseur." He said it wanted matter.—No doubt it had not the deep thinking of Johnson's writings. But surely it has just views of the surface of life, and a very sprightly manner. His opinion of The World was not much higher than of the Connoissenr.
At this lime, Miss Williams, as she was then called, though she did not reside with him in the Temple under his roof, but had lodgings in Bolt-court, Fleet-street, had so much of his attention, that he every night drank tea with her before he went home, however late it might be. and she always sat up for him. This, it may be fairly conjectured, was not alone a proof of his regard for her, but of his own unwillingness to go into solitude, before that unseasonable hour at which he had habituated himself to expect the obliviou of repose. Dr. Goldsmith, being a privileged man, went with him this night, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of superiority, like that of an esoterick over an exoterick disciple of a sage of antiquity, "I go to Miss Williams." I
constant practice. The quantity of Dr. Campbell's composition is almost incredible, and his labours brought him large profits. Dr. Joseph Warton told me that Johnson said of him. "He is the richest author that ever grazed the common of literature."
confess, I then envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed so proud ; but it was not long before I obtained the same mark of distinction.
On Tuesday the 5th of July, 1 again visited Johnson. He told me he had looked into the poems of a pretty voluminous writer, Mr. (now Dr. John Ogilvie, one of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, which had lately come out, but could find no thinking in them. Boswell. " Is there not imagination in them, Sir?" Johnson. "Why, Sir, there is in them what was imagination, but it is no more imagination in him than sound is sound in the echo. And his diction too is not his own. We have long ago seen white-robed innocence and Jiower-bespangled meads."
Talking of London, he observed, "Sir, if you wish to have a just 'notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists."—
On Wednesday, the 6th of July, he was engaged to sup with me at my lodgings in Downing-street, Westminster. But on the preceding night my landlord having behaved very rudely to me and some company who were with me, I had resolved not to remain another night in his house. I wus exceedingly uneasy at the awkward appearance I supposed I should make to Johnson and the other gentlemen whom I had invited, not being able to receive them at home, and being obliged to order supper at the Mitre. I went to Johnson in the morning, and talked of it as of a serious distress. He laughed, and said, " Consider, Sir, how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence."—Were this consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations. 1 have tried it frequently with good effect. "There is nothing (continued he) in this mighty misfortune; nay, we shall be better at the Mitre." I told him that I had been at Sir John Fielding's office, complaining of my landlord, and had been informed, that though 1 had taken my lodgings for a year, I might, upon proof of his bad behaviour, quit them when I pleased, without being under an obligation to pay rent for any longer time than while I possessed them. The fertility of Johnson's mind conld shew itself even upon so small a matter as this. "Why, Sir, (said he) I suppose this must be the law, since you have been told so in Bow-street. But, if your landlord could hold you to your bargain, and the lodgings should be yours fora year, you may certainly use them as you think fit. So, Sir, you mny quarter two lifeguardmen upon him ; or you may send the greatest scoundrel you can find into your apartments; or you may say that you want to make some experiments in natural philosophy, and may burn a large quantity of assa-faetida in his house."
I had as my guests this evening at the Mitre tavern, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Thomas Davies, Mr. Eccles, an Irish gentleman,
for whose agreeable company I was obliged to Mr. Davies, and the Reverend Mr. John Ogilvie, who was desirous of being in company with my illustrious fried, while I, i.i turn, was proud to have the honour of shewing one of my countrymen upon what easy terms Johnson permitted me to live with him.
Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerness, to shine, and disputed very warmly with Johnson agaiust the well known maxim of the British constitution," the King can do no wrong;" affirming, that "what was morally false could not be politically true: and as the King might, in the exercise of his regal power, command and cause the doing of what was wrong, it certainly might be said, in sense and in reason, that he could do wrong." Johnson. "Sir, you are to consider, that in our constitution, according to its true principles, the King is the head, he id supreme; he is above every thing, and there is no power by which he can be tried, therefore, it is, Sir, that we hold the King can do no wrong; that whatever may happen to be wrong in government may not be above our reach, by being ascribed to Majesty. Hedress is always to be had against oppression, by punishing the immediate agents. The King, though he should command, cannot force a Judge to condemn m man unjustly; therefore it is the Judge whom we prosecute and punish. Political institutions are formed upon the consideration of what will most frequently tend to the good of the whole, although now and then exceptions may occur. Thus it is better in general that a nation should have a supreme legislative power, although it may at times be abused. And then, Sir, there is this consideration, that if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up, and claiming her original rights, overturn a corrupt political system." 1 mark this animated sentence with peculiar pleasure, as a noble instance of that truly dignified spirit of freedom which ever glowed in his heart, though he was charged with slavish tenets by superficial observers; because he was at all times indignant against that false patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that unruly restlessness which is inconsistent with the stable authority of any good government.
"Great abilities (said he) are not requisite for an Historian; for in historical composition, all the greatest powers of the human mind are quiescent. Fie has facts ready to his hand; so there is no exercise of invention. Imagination is not required in any high degree; only about as much as is used in the lower kinds of poetry. Some penetration, accuracy, and colouring, will fit a man for the task, if he can give the application which is necessary."
"Bayle's Dictionary is a very useful work for those to consult who love the biographical part of literature, which is whut I love most."
Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign,.he observed, "I think Dr. Arbuthnot the fir: ^ man among them. He was the most universal genins, being an excel, -it physician, a man of deep learning, and a man of much humour. Mr. Addision was, to be sure, a great man; his learning was not profound; but his morality, his humour, and his elegance of writing, set him very high."
Mr. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the topick of his conversation the praises of his native country. He began with saying, that there was very rich land around Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had studied physic there, contradicted this very untruly, with a sneering laugh. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie then took a new ground, where I suppose he thought himself perfectly safe; for he observed, that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. Johnson. "1 believe, Sir, you have a great many. Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scocthman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!" This unexpected and pointed sally produced a roar of applause. After all, however, those who admire the rude grandeur of Nature, cannot deny it to Caledonia.
On Saturday, July*), I found Johnson surrounded with a numerous levee, but have not preserved any part of his conversation. On the 14th we had another evening by ourselves at the Mitre. It happening to be a very rainy night, I made some common-place observations on the relaxation of nerves and depression spirits which such weather occasioned ;* adding, however, that it was good for the vegetable creation. Johnson, who, as we have already seen, denied that the temperature of the air had any influence on the human frame, answered, with a smile of ridicule, "Why, yes, Sir, it is good for vegetables, and for the animals who eat those vegetables, and for the animals who eat those animals." This observation of his aptly enough introduced a good supper; and I soon forgot in Johnson's company, the influence of a moist atmosphere.
Feeling myself now quite at ease as his companion, though I had all possible reverence for him, 1 expressed a regret that I could not be so easy with my father, though he was not much older than Johnson, and certainly however respectable had not more learning and greater abilities to depress me. I asked him the reason of this. Johnson. " Why, Sir, I am a man of the world. I live in the world, and I take, in some degree the colour of the world as it moves along. Your father is a judge in a remote part of the island, and all his notions are taken from the old world. Besides, Sir, there must always be a struggle between a father and son, while one aims at power, and the other at independence." I said, I was afraid my father would force me to be a lawyer. Johnson. "Sir, you need not be afraid of his forcing you to be a laborious practising lawyer; that is not in his power. For as the proverb says, 'One man may lead a horse to the water, but twenty cannot make him drink.' He may be displeased that you are not what he wishes you to be; but that displeasure will not go far. If he insists on your having as much law as is necessary for a man of property, and then endeavours to get you into parliament, he is quite in the right."
He enlarged very convincingly upon the excellence of rhyme over blank verse in English poetry. I mentioned to him that Dr. Adam
\ Johnson would suffer none of his friends to fill up chasms in conversation with remarks on the weather: " Let as uot talk of the weather."