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Smith, in his lectures upon composition, whiy I studied under him in the College of Glasgow, had maintained the dame opinion strenuously, and I repeated some of his arguments. Johnson. "Sir, I was once in company with Smith, and we did not take to each other; but had I known that he loved rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have Hugged him.
Talking of those who denied the truth of Christianity, he said, " It is always easy to be on the negative side. If a man were now to deny that there is salt upon the table, you could not reduce him to an absurdity. Come, let us try this a little further. I deny that Canada is taken, and I can support my denial by pretty good arguments. The French are a much more numerous people than we; and it is not likely that they would allow us to take it. 'But the ministry have assured us, in all the formality of the Gazette, that it is taken.'—Very true. But the ministry have put us to an enormous expence by the war in America, and it is their interest to persuade us that we have got something for onr money.—' But the fact is confirmed by thousands of men who were at the taking of it.'— Ay, but these men have still more interest in deceiving us. They don't want that you should think the French have beat them, hut they have beat the French. Now suppose you should go over and find that it really is taken, that would only satisfy yourself; for when you come home we will not believe you. We will say you have been bribed.—Yet, Sir, notwithstanding all these plausible objects, we have no doubt that Canada is really oura. Such is the weight of common testimony. How much stronger are the evidences of the Christian religion?"
"Idleness is a disease which must be combated ; but I would not advise a rigid adherence to a particular plan of study. 1 myself have never persisted in any plan for two days together. A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good. A young man should read five hours in a clay, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge."
To a man of vigorous intellect and ardent curiosity like his own, reading without a regular plan may be beneficiat; though even such a man must submit to it, if he would attain a full understanding of any of the sciences.
To such a degree of unrestrained frankness had he now accustomed me, that in the course of this evening I talked of the numerous reflection* which had been thrown out against him on account of his having accepted a pension from his present Majesty, " Why, Sir, (said he, with a hearty laugh,) it is a mighty foolish noise that they make. I have accepted of a pension as a reward which has been thought due to my literary merit; and now that I have this pension, I am the same man in every respect that I have ever been; I retain the same principles. It is true, that I cannot now curse (smiling) the House of Hanover; nor would it be decent for me to drink King James's health in the wine that King George gives me money to pay for. Bat, Sir, I think that the
pleasure of cursing the |Jonse of Hanover, and drinking King James's health, are amply overbalanced by three hundred pounds a year."
He was wont often to exercise both his pleasantry and ingenuity in talking Jacobitism. My much respected friend, Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, has favoured me with the following admirable instance from his Lordship's own recollection. One day when dining at old Mr. Langton's, where Miss Roberts, his niece, was one of the company, Johnson, with his usual complacent attention to the fair sex, took her by the hand and said, " My dear, 1 hope you are a Jocobite." Old Mr. Langton, who though a high and steady Tory, was attached to the present Royal Family, seemed offended, and asked Johnson, with great warmth, what he could mean by putting such a question to his niece? "Why, Sir, (said Johnson) I meant no offence to your niece, I meant her a great compliment. A Jacobite, Sir, believes in the divine right of Kings. He that believes in the divine right of Kings believes in a Divinity. A Jacobite believes in the divine right of Bishops. He that believes in the divine right of Bishops believes in the divine authority of the Christian religion. Therefore, Sir, a Jacobite is neither an Atheist nor a Deist. That cannot be said of a Whig; for Wiggism is a negation of all principle" %
He advised me, when abroad, to be as much as I could with the Professors in the Universities, and with the Clergy ; for from their conversation 1 might expect the best accounts of every thing in whatever country I should be, with the additional advantage of keeping my learning alive.
It will be observed, that when giving me advice as to my travels, Dr. Johnson did not dwell upon cities, and palaces, and pictures, aud shows, and Arcadian scenes. He was of Lord Essex's opinion, who advises his kinsman Roger Earl of Rutland, "rather to go a hundred miles to speak with one wise man, than five miles to see a fair town."J
1 described to him an impudent fellow from Scotland, who affected to be a savage, and railed at all established systems. Johnson. "There is nothing surprising in this, Sir. He wants to make himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you looked at him and called to him to come out. But let him alone, never mind him, and he'll soon give it over."
I added that the same person maintained that there was no distinction between virtue and vice. Johnson. " Why, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a lyar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."
Sir David Dairymple, now one of the Judges of Scotland by the title of Lord Hailes, had contributed much to increase my high opinion of Johnson, on account of his writings, long before I attained to a personal acquaintance with him; I, in return, had informed Johnson of Sir David's
I Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 440.
|| Letter to Rutland on Travel, l6mo. i.vjti.
eminent character for learning' and religion; and Johnson was so much pleased, that at one of our evening meetings he gave him for his toast. I at this time kept up a very frequent correspondence with Sir David; and I read to Dr. Johnson to-night the following passage from the letter which I had last received from him:
"It gives me pleasure to think that you have obtained the friendship of Mr. Samuel Johnson. He is one of the best moral writers which .England has produced. At the same time, I envy you the free and undisguised converse with such a man. May I beg you to present my respects to him, and to assure him of the veneration which I entertain for the author of the Rambler and of Kassetas? Let me recommend this work to you; with the Rambler you certainly are acquainted. In Rasselns you will see a tender-hearted operator, who probes the wound only to heal it. Swift, on the contrary, mangles human nature. He cuts and slashes, as if he took pleasure in the operation, like the tyrant who said, Itaferi vt se sentiat emori." Johnson seemed to be much gratified by this just and well-turned compliment.
He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise, and would yield me great satisfaction when the particulars were faded from my remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a pievious coincidence of opinion with his upon this subject, for I had kept such a journal for some time ; and it was no small pleasure to have this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He counselled me to keep it private, and said I might surely have a friend who would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I have been enabled to give the world so many anecdotes, «hich would otherwise have been lost to posterity. I mentioned that I was afraid I put into my journal too many little incidents. Johnson. "There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible."
Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on me, and was so much *truck even with the imperfect account which 1 gave him of Dr. Johnson's conversation, that to his honour be it recorded, when I complained that drinking port and sitting up late with him, affected my nerves for some time after, he said, "One had better be palsied at eighteen than not keep company with such a man."
On Tuesday, July 18, I found tall Sir Thomas Robinson sitting with Johnson. Sir Thomas said, that the King of Prussia valued himself upon three things ;—upon being a hero, a musician, and an author. Johnson. "Pretty well, Sir, for one man. As to his beiog an author, I have not looked at his poetry; but his prose is poor stuff. He writes just as you may suppose Voltaire's footboy to do, who has been his amanuensis. He has such parts as the valet might have, and about as much of the colouring of the style as might be got by transcribing his works."
No. 3. 8 D
Mr. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson's library, which was contained in two garrets over his Chambers, where Lintot, son of the celebrated bookseller of that name, had formerly his warehouse. 1 found a number of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion. The floor was strewed with manuscript leaves, in Johnson's own hand writing, which I beheld with a degree of veneration, supposing they perhaps might contain portions of the Humbler, or of Kasselas. 1 observed an apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life very fond. The place seemed to be very favourable for retirement and meditation. Johnson told me, that he went up thither without mentioning it to his servant when he wanted to study, secure from interruption ; for he would not allow his servant to say he was not ut home when he really was. "A servant's strict regard for truth, (said he) must be weakened by such a practice. A philosopher may know that it is merely a form of denial; but few servants are such nice distinguishes. If I accustom a servant to tell a lie for me, have I not reason to apprehend that he will tell many lies for himself." I am, however, satisfied that every servant of any degree of intelligence, understands saying his master is not at home, not at all as the affirmation of a fact, but as customary words intimating that his master wishes not to be seen; so that there can be no bad effect from it.
Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall, who had been my intimate friend for many years, had at this time chambers in Farrar'sbuildings, at the bottom of Inner Temple-lane, which he kindly lent me upon my quitting my lodgings, he being to return to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. I found them particularly convenient for me, as they were so near Dr. Johnson's.
On Wednesday, July 20, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Dempster, and my uncle Dr. Boswell, who happened to be now in Loudon, supped with me at these Chambers. Johnson. "Pity is not natural to man. Children are always cruel. Pity is acquired and improved by the cultivation of reason. We may have uneasy sensations from seeing a creature in distress, without pity; for we have not pity unless we wish to relieve them. When I am on my way to dine with a friend, and finding it late, have bid the coachman make haste, if I happen to attend when he whips the horses, I may feel unpleasantly that the animals are put to pain, but I do not wish him to desist. No, Sir, I wish him to drive on."
Mr. Alexander Donaldson, bookseller of Edinburgh, had for some time opened a shop in London, and sold his cheap editions of the most popular English books, in defiance of the supposed common-law right of Literary Properly. Johuson, though he concurred in the opinion which was afterwards sanctioned by a judgment of the House of Lords, that there was no such right, was at this time very angry that the Booksellers of London, for whom he uniformly professed much regard, should suffer from an invasion of what they had ever considered to be secure ; and he was loud and violent against Mr. Donaldson. "He is a fellow who takes advantage of the law to injure his brethren; for notwithstanding that the statute secures only fourteen years of exclusive right, it has always been
understood by the trade, that he, who buy* the copy-right of a book from the author, obtains a perpetual property; and upon that belief, numberless bargains are made to transfer that property after the expiration of the statutory term. Now Donaldson, 1 say, takes advantage here, of people who have really on equitable title from usage; and if we consider how few of the books, of which they buy the property, succeed so well as to bring profit, we should be of opinion that the term of fourteen years is too short; it should be sixty years." Dempster. "Donaldson, Sir, is anxious for the encouragement of literature. He reduces the price of books, so that poor students may buy them." Johnson. (laughing) "Well, Sir, allowing that to be his motive, he is no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the rich in order to give to the poor."
If is remarkable, that when the great question concerning Literary Property came to be ultimately tried before the supreme tribunal of this country, in consequence of the very spirited exertions of Mr. Donaldson, Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity ; but he thought that the term of the exclusive right of authors should be considerably enlarged, He was then for granting a hundred years.
The conversation now turned upon Mr. David Hume's style. JohnSon. " Why, Sir, his style is not English; the structure of his sentences is French. Now the French structure and the English structure may, in the nature of things, be equally good. But if you allow that the English language is established, he is wrong. My name might originally have been Nicholson, as well as Johnson; but were you to call me Nicholson now, you would call me very absurdly."
Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind was at this time a fashionable topic. It gave rise to an observation by Mr. Dempster, that the advantages of fortune and rank were nothing to a wise man, who ought to vulue only merit. Johnson. " If man were a savage, living in the woods by himself, this might be troe; but in civilized society we all depend upon each other, and our happiness is very much owing to the good opinion of mankind. Now, Sir, in civilized ^ciety, external advantages make us more respected. A man with a good coat upon his back meets with a better reception than he who has a bad one. Sir, you may analyse this, and say what is there in it? But that will avail you nothing, for it is a part of a general system. Pound St. Paul's church into atoms, and consider any single atom; it is to be sure, good for nothing: but, put all these atoms together, and you have St. Paul's church. So it is with human felicity, which is made up of many ingredients, each of which may be shewn to be very insignificant. In civilized society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money will. Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into the street, and give one man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which will respect you most. If you wish only to support nature, Sir William Petty fixes your allowance at three pounds a year ; but as times are much altered, let us call it six pounds. This sum will fill your belly, shelter you from the weather, and even get you a strong lasting coat, supposing it to be maduof