« السابقةمتابعة »
He added, "These are all of which I can be sure." They bear a small proportion to the whole, which consists of four hundred aud thirty-eight verses. Goldsmith, in the couplet which he inserted, mentions Luke aa a person well known, and superficial readers have passed it over quite smoothly; while those of more attention have been as much perplexed by Luke, as by Lydiat, in "The Vanity of Human Wishes-." The truth is, that Goldsmith himself was in a mistake. "In the Respublica Hungarka," there is an account of a desperate rebellion in the year 1514, headed by two brothers, of the uame of Zeck, George and Luke. When it was quelled, George, not Luke, was punished by his head being encircled with a red hot iron crown: "corona condescente ferreA coronatur." The same severity of torture was exercised on the Earl of Athol, one of the murderers of King James I. of Scotland.
Dr. Johnson at the same time favoured me by marking the lines which he furnished to Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," which are only the last four:
"That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
"As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away:
"While self-dependent power can time defy,
"As rocks resist the billows and the sky."
Talking of education, "People have now-a-days, (said he,) got a strange opinion that every thing should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so. much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can bs best taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shown. You may teach chyinistry by lectures. You may teach making of shoes by lectures !*»
At night 1 supped with him at the Mitre Tavern, that we might renew our social intimacy at the original place of meeting. But there was now a considerable difference in his way of living. Having had an illness, in which he was advised to leave off wine, he had, from that period, continued to abstain from it, and drank only water, or lemonade.
I told him that a foreign friend of his, whom I had met with abroad, was so wretchedly perverted to infidelity, that he treated the hopes of immortality with brutal levity; and said, *' As man dies like a dog, let him lie like a dog." Johnson. If be dies like a dog, let him lie like a dog." I added, that this man said to me, " I hate mankind, for 1 think myself one of the best of them, aud I know how bad I am." Johnson. "Sir, he must be very singular in his opinion, if he thinks himself one of the best of men; for none of his friends think him so."—He said, '' No honest man could be so after a fair examination of the proofs of Christianity." I named Hume. Johnson. " No, Sir; Hume owned to a clergyman in the bishopric of Durham, that he had never read the New Testament with attention."—I mentioned Hume's notion, that all who are happy are equally happy; a little miss with a new gown at a dancing-school ball, a general at the head of a victorious army, and an orator, after having made an eloquent speech in u great assembly. JohnSon. " Sir, that all who are happy, are equally happy, is not true, A
peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy. Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness.. A peasant has not capacity for having equal happiness with a philosopher."
I remember this very question very happily illustrated in opposition to Hume, by the Reverend Mr. Robert Brown, at Utrecht. "A small drinking glass and a large one, (said he,) may be equally full; but the large one holds more than the small."
Dr. Johnson was very kind this evening, and said to me, "You have now lived five-and-twenty years, and you have employed them well." "Alas, Sir, (said I,) I fear not. Do I know history? Do I know mathematicks? Do I know law?" Johnson. " Why, Sir, though you may know no science so well as to be able to teach it, and no profession so well as to be able to follow it, your general mass of knowledge of books and men renders you very capable to make yourself master of any science, or fit yourself for any profession." 1 mentioned that a gay friend had advised me against being a lawyer, because I should be excelled by plodding block-heads. Johnson. " Why, Sir, in -the formulary and statutory part of law, a plodding block-head may excel; but in the ingenious and rational part of it a plodding block-head can never excel."
I talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the world, by courting great men, and asked him whether he had ever submitted to it. Johnson. " Why, Sir, I never was near enough to great men, to court them. You may be prudently attached to great men, and yet independent. You are not to do what you think wrong; and, Sir, yon are to calculate, and not pay too dear for what you get. You must not give a shilling's worth of court for sixpence worth of good. But if you can get a shilling's, worth of good for sixpence worth of court, you are a fool if you do not pay court."
He said, " If convents should be allowed at all, they should only be retreats for persons unable to serve the public, or who have served it. It is our first duty to serve society; and, after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A youthful passion for abstracted devotion should not be encouraged."
I introduced the subject of second sight, and other mysterious manifestations; the fulfilment of which, 1 suggested, might happen by chance. Johnson. " Yes, Sir, but they have happened so often, that mankind have agreed to think them not fortuitous."
I talked to him a great deal of what I had seen in Corsica, and of my intent 11 to publish au account of it. He encouraged me by saying, "You cannot go to the bottom of the subject; but all that you tell us Virill be new to us. Give us as many anecdotes as you can."
Our next meeting at the Mitre was on Saturday the 15th of February, when I presented to him my old and most intimate friend, the Reverend Mr. Temple, then of Cambridge. I having mentioned that 1 had passed some time with Rousseau in his wild retreat, and having quoted some remark made by Wilkes, with whom 1 had spent many pleasant hours in Italy, Johnson, said (sarcastically,) " It seems, Sir, you have kept very good company abroad, Rousseau and Wilkes!" Thinking it enough to defend one at a time, I said nothing as to my guy friend, but answered with a smile, " My dear Sir, you don't rail Rousseau bail company. Do you really think him a bad man?" Johnson. "Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don't talk with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled him: and it is a shame that he is protected in this country." Boswell. " I don't deny, Sir, but that his novel may, perhaps, do harm; but 1 cannot think his intention was bad." Johnson. " Sir, that will not do. We cannot prove any man's intention to be bad. You may shoot a man through the head, and say you intended to miss him; but the Judge will order you to be hanged. An alleged want of intention, when evil is committed, will not he allowed in a court of justice. Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence for his transportation, than that of any felon who has gone from the Old Bailey these many years. Yes, I should like to have him work in the plantations." Boswell. "Sir, do you think him as bad a mao as Voltaire?" Johnson. " Why, Sir, it is difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between them."
On his favourite subject of subordination, Johnson said, " So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other."
I mentioned the advice given us by philosophers, to console ourselves, when distressed or embarrassed, by thinking of those who are in a worse situation than ourselves. This, I observed, could not apply to all, for there must be some who have nobody worse than they are. Johnson. "Why to be sure, Sir, there are; but they don't know it. There is no being so poor and so contemptible, who does not think there is somebody still poorer, and still more contemptible."
As my stay in London at this time was very short, 1 had not many opportunities of being with Dr. Johnson; but I felt my veneration for him in no degree lessened, by my having seen multorum huminum mores et urbes. On the contrary, by having it in my power to compare him with many of the most celebrated persons of other countries, my admiration of his extraordinary mind was increased and confirmed.
The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared in his manners, was more striking to me now, from my having been accustomed to the studied smooth complying habits of the Continent; and I clearly recognized in him, not without respect for his honest conscientious zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treating every attempt to unhinge or weaken good principles.
Oue evening, when a young gentleman teased him with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could not read them in the original tongues, and be sure that they were not invented. "Why, foolish fellow, (said Johnson,) has he any better authority for almost every thing that he believes ?"—Boswell. "Then the vulgar, Sir, never can know they are right, but must submit themselves to the learned."—Johnson. "To he sure, Sir. The vulgar are the children of the State, and must be taught like children."— Boswell. " Then Sir, a poor Turk must be a Mahometan, just as a poor Englishman must be a Christian ?"—Johnson. "Why, yes, Sir; and what then? This now is such stuff as I used to talk to my mother when I lirst began to think myself a clever fellow; and she ought to have whipt me for it."
Another evening Dr. Goldmith and I called on him, with the hope of prevailing on him to sup with us at the Mitre. We found him indisposed, and resolved not to go abroad. "Come, then, (said Goldsmith,) we will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have the big man with us." Johnson then called for a bottle of port, of which Goldsmith and 1 partook, while our friend, now a water-drinker, sat by ns. Goldsmith. "1 think, Mr. Johnson, you don't go near the theatres now. You give yourself no more concern about a new play, than if you had never had any thing to do with the stage." Johnson. "Why, Sir, our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore." Goldsmith. "Nay, Sir, but your Muse was not a whore." Johnson. "Sir, I do not think she was. But as we advance in the journey of life we drop some of the things which have pleased us; whether it be that we are fatigued and don't choose to carry so many things any farther, or that we find other things which we like better." Boswell. "But, Sir, Why don't you give us something in some other way?" Goldsmith. "Ay, Sir, we have a claim upon you." Johnson. "No, Sir, lam not obliged to do any more. No man is obliged to do as much as he can do. A man is to have part of his life to himself. If u soldier has fought a good many campaigns, he is not to be blamed, if he retires to ease and tranquillity. A physician, who has practised long in a great city, may be excused, if he retires to a small town, and takes less practice. Now, Sir, the good I can do by my conversation bears the same proportion to the good I can do by my writings, that the practice of a physician, retired to a small town, does to his practice in a great city." Boswell. "But I wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing." Johnson. "Sir, yon may wonder."
He talked of making verses, and observed, "The great difficulty is to know when you have made good ones. When composing, I have generally had them in my mind, perhaps fifty at a time, walking up and down in my room; and then I have written them down, and often, from laziness, have written only half lines. I have written a hundred lines in a day. I remember, I wrote a hundred lines of ' The Vanity of Human Wishea' in a day. Doctor, (turning to Goldsmith,) 1 am not quite idle; I made one line t'other day ; but I made no more." Goldsmith. "Let us hear it; we'll put a bad one to it." Johnson. "No, Sir; 1 have forgot it."
Such specimens of the easy and playful conversation of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson are, 1 think, to be prized; as exhibiting the little varieties of a mind so enlarged and so powerful when objects of consequence require its exertions, and as giving us a minute knowledge of his character and modes of thinking.
"To Bennet Langton, Esq. At Langton, Near Spilsry, LinColnshire.
"dear Sir, "What your friends have done, that from your departure till now nothing has been heard of you, none of us are able to inform the rest; but as we are all neglected alike, no one thinks himself entitled to the privilege of complaint.
"1 should have known nothing of you or of Langton, from the time that dear Miss Langton left us, had not I met Mr. Simpson, of Lincoln, one day in the street, by whom I was informed that Mr. Langton, your Mamma, and yourself, had been all ill, but that you were all recovered.
"That sickness should suspend your correspondence, I did not wonder; but hoped that it would be renewed at your recovery.
"Since you will not inform us where you are, or how you live, I know not whether you desire to know any thiug of us. However, I will tell you that The Clur subsists; but we have the loss of Burke's company since he has been engaged in public business, in which he has gained more reputation than perhaps any man at his [first] appearance ever gained before. He made two speeches in the House for repealing the Stamp-act, which were publicly commended by Mr. Pitt, and have filled the town with wonder,
"Burke is a great man by nature, and is expected soou to attain civil greatness. I am grown greater too, for 1 have maintained the news-papers these many weeks; and what is greater still, 1 have risen every morning since New-year's-day, at about eight; when I was up, I have indeed done but little: yet it is 00 slight advancement to obtain for so many hours more, the consciousness of being.
"I wish you were in my new study; I am now writing the first letter in it. I think it looks very pretty about me.
"Dyer* is constant at The Clur; Hawkins is remiss ; 1 am not over diligent. Dr. Nugent, Dr. Goldsmith, and Mr. Keynolds, are very
J Samuel Dyer, Esq. a most learned and ingenious Member of the Literary Clur, for whose understanding and attainments Dr. Johnson had great respect. He died Sept. 14, 1773. A more particular account of this gentleman may be found in a Note on the Life of Dryden, p. 186, prefixed to the edition of that great writer's Prose Works, in four volumes, 8vo. 1800: in which his character is vindicated, and the very unfavourable and unjust representation of it, given by Sir John Hawkins in his Life of Johnson, pp. 223—233, is minutely examined.