Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

1779. in Ireland but a short time, at an early period of his Ætat.

life, and never in Scotland. I objected also to what 70. appears an anticlimax of praise, when contrasted with

the preceding panegyrick," and diminished the publick stock of harmless pleasure !”—“ Is not harmless pleasure very tame ?” Johnson. “Nay, Sir, harmless pleasure is the highest praise. Pleasure is a word of dubious import ; pleasure is in general dangerous, and pernicious to virtue ; to be able therefore to furnish pleasure that is harmless, pleasure pure and unalloyed, is as great a power as man can possess.” This was, perhaps, as ingenious a defence as could be made ; still, however, I was not satisfied.

A celebrated wit being mentioned, he said, “ One may say of him as was said of a French wit, Il n'a de l'esprit que contre Dieu. I have been several times in company with him, but never perceived any strong power of wit. He produces a general effect by various means; he has a cheerful countenance and a gay voice. Besides his trade is wit. It would be as wild in him to come into company without merriment, as for a highwayman to take the road without his pistols.”

Talking of the effects of drinking, he said, “Drinking may be practised with great prudence ; a man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk; a sober man who happens occasionally to get drunk, readily enough goes into a new company, which a man who has been drinking should never do. Such a man will undertake any thing ; he is without skill in inebriation. I used to slink home when I had drunk too much. A man accustomed to self-examination will be conscious when he is drunk, though an habitual drunkard will not be conscious of it. I knew a physician, who for twenty years was not sober ; yet in a pamphlet, which he wrote upon fevers, he appealed to Garrick and me for his vindication from a charge of drunkenness. A bookseller (naming him) who got a large fortune by trade, was so habitually and equably drunk, that his most intimate friends never perceived that he was more sober at one time than another."

Talking of celebrated and successful irregular prac- 1779. tisers in physick, he said, “ Taylor? was the most igno- Etat. rant man I ever knew, but sprightly: Ward, the dullest. 70. Taylor challenged me once to talk Latin with him ; (laughing.) I quoted some of Horace, which he took to be a part of my own speech. He said a few words well enough.” BEAUCLERK. “I remember, Sir, you said, that Taylor was an instance how far impudence could carry ignorance."-Mr. Beauclerk was very entertaining this day, and told us a number of short stories in a lively elegant manner, and with that air of the world which has I know not what impressive effect, as if there were something more than is expressed, or than perhaps we could perfectly understand. As Johnson and I accompanied Sir Joshua Reynolds in his coach, Johnson said, “ There is in Beauclerk a predominance

, over his company, that one does not like. But he is a man who has lived so much in the world, that he has a short story on every occasion ; he is always ready to talk, and is never exhausted."

Johnson and I passed the evening at Miss Reynolds's, Sir Joshua's sister. I mentioned that an eminent friend of our's, talking of the common remark, that affection descends, said, that “this was wisely contrived for the preservation of mankind; for which it was not so necessary that there should be affection from children to parents, as from parents to children ; nay, there would be no harm in that view though children should at a certain age eat their parents.” Johnson. “But,

JOHNSON Sir, if this were known generally to be the case, parents would not have affection for children.” Boswell. " True, Sir ; for it is in expectation of a return that parents are so attentive to their children ; and I know a very pretty instance of a little girl of whom her father was very fond, who once when he was in a melancholy fit, and had gone to bed, persuaded him to rise in good humour by saying, “My dear papa, please to get up, and let me help you on with your clothes, that I may learn to do it when you are an old man."

[ocr errors]

? {The Chevalier Taylor, the celebrated Oculist. M.]

1779. Soon after this time a little incident occurred, which E. I will not suppress, because I am desirous that my Etat 70.** work should be, as much as is consistent with the strict.

est truth, an antidote to the false and injurious notions of his character, which have been given by others, and therefore I infuse every drop of genuine sweetness into my biographical cup.

TO DR. JOHHSON.

MY DEAR SIR,

“ I am in great pain with an inflamed foot, and obliged to keep my bed, so am prevented from having the pleasure to dine at Mr. Ramsay's to-day, which is very hard ; and my spirits are sadly sunk. Will you be so friendly as to come and sit an hour with me in the evening. I am ever

" Your most faithful,
“ And affectionate humble servant,

"JAMES BOSWELL.' South-Audley-street ; Monday, April 26.”

[ocr errors][merged small]

“ MR. JOHNSON laments the absence of Mr. Boswell, and will come to him.

Harley-street." He came to me in the evening, and brought Sir Josh. ua Reynolds. I need scarcely say, that their conversation, while they sat by my bedside, was the most pleasing opiate to pain that could have been administered.

Johnson being now better disposed to obtain information concerning Pope than he was last year, 8 sent by me to my Lord Marchmont, a present of those volumes of his “Lives of the Poets," which were at this time published, with a request to have permission to wait on him ; and his Lordship, who had called on him twice, obligingly appointed Saturday, the first of May, for receiving us.

* See p. 56 of this polume.

On that morning Johnson came to me from Streatham, 1779. and after drinking chocolate, at General Paoli's, in South

Ætat. Audley-street, we proceeded to Lord Marchmont's in 70. Curzon-street. His Lordship met us at the door of his library, and with great politeness said to Johnson, “ I am not going to make an encomium upon myself, by telling you the high respect I have for you, Sir.” Johnson was exceedingly courteous ; and the interview, which lasted about two hours, during which the Earl communicated his anecdotes of Pope, was as agreeable as I could have wished. When we came out, I said to Johnson, that considering his Lordship’s civility, I should have been vexed if he had again failed to come.” “Sir, (said he,) I would rather have given twenty pounds than not have come." I accompanied him to Streatham, where we dined, and returned to town in the evening

On Monday, May 3, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's ;
I pressed him this day for his opinion on the passage in
Parnell, concerning which I had in vain questioned
him in several letters, and at length obtained it in due
form of law.
Case for Dr. Johnson's Opinion ;

3d of May, 1779.
PARNELL, in his Hermit,' has the following pas-

" sage:

* To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
• To find if books and swains report it right :
*(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,

Whose feet came wand'ring o'er the nightly dew.') Is there not a contradiction in its being first supposed that the Hermit knew both what books and swains reported of the world; yet afterwards said, that he knew it by swains alone ?

I think it an inaccuracy.He mentions two in* structors in the first line, and says he had only one “ in the next."

[ocr errors]

6

9

9

?« I do not (says Mr. Malone,) see any difficulty in this passage, and wonder that Dr. Johnson should have acknowledged it to be inaccurate. The Hermit, it should be observed, had no actual experience of the world whatsoever : all his

1779. This evening I set out for Scotland. Ætat.

TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD. 70.

DEAR MADAM,

“MR. GREEN has informed me that you are much better ; I hope I need not tell you that I am glad of it. I cannot boast of being much better; my old nocturnal complaint still pursues me, and my respiration is difficult, though much easier than when I left you the summer before last. Mr. and Mrs. Thrale are well ; Miss has been a little indisposed ; but she is got well again. They have since the loss of their boy had two daughters;

but they seem likely to want a son.
“ I hope you had some books which I sent

you.

I was sorry for poor Mrs. Adey's death, and am afraid you will be sometimes solitary; but endeavour, whether alone or in company, to keep yourself cheerful. My friends likewise die very fast; but such is the state of man. I am, dear love,

" Your most humble servant, May 4, 1779.

“ SAM. Johnson.”

a

He had, before I left London, resumed the conversation concerning the appearance of a ghost at Newcastle upon Tyne, which Mr. John Wesley believed, but to which Johnson did not give credit. I was, how

knowledge concerning it had been obtained in two ways; from books, and from the relations of those country swains, who had seen a little of it. The plain meaning, therefore, is, “ To clear his doubts concerning Providence, and to obtain some knowledge of the world by actual experience ; to see whether the accounts furnished by books, or by the oral communications of swains, were just representations of it; (I say, swains,) for his oral or viva voce information had been obtained from that part of mankind alone, &c.' The word alone here does not relate to the whole of the preceding line, as has been supposed, but, by a common licence, to the words of all mankind, which are understood, and of which it is restrictive."

Mr. Malone, it must be owned, has shewn much critical ingenuity in his explanation of this passage. His interpretation, however, seems to me much too recondite. The meaning of the passage may be certain enough ; but surely the expression is confused, and one part of it contradictory to the other.

(But why too recondite ?-_When a meaning is given to a passage by understanding words in an uncommon sense, the interpretation may be said to be recondite, and, however ingenious, may be suspected not to be sound ; but when words are explained in their ordinary acceptation, and the explication which is fairly deduced from them without any force or constraint is also perfectly justified by the context, it surely may be safely accepted ; and the calling such an explication recondite, when nothing else can be said against it, will not make it the less just. M.]

« ZurückWeiter »