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Life Of Johnson, Vol. 1 by Boswell, Edited by Birkbeck Hill

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consider themselves as under his patriarchal care, and who will follow
him to the field upon an emergency.'

His notion of the dignity of a Scotch landlord had been formed upon what
he had heard of the Highland Chiefs; for it is long since a lowland
landlord has been so curtailed in his feudal authority, that he has
little more influence over his tenants than an English landlord; and of
late years most of the Highland Chiefs have destroyed, by means too well
known, the princely power which they once enjoyed[1202].

[Page 410: Johnson's kindness of heart. A.D. 1763.]

He proceeded: 'Your going abroad, Sir, and breaking off idle habits, may
be of great importance to you. I would go where there are courts and
learned men. There is a good deal of Spain that has not been
perambulated. I would have you go thither[1203]. A man of inferiour talents
to yours may furnish us with useful observations upon that country.' His
supposing me, at that period of life, capable of writing an account of
my travels that would deserve to be read, elated me not a little.

I appeal to every impartial reader whether this faithful detail of his
frankness, complacency, and kindness to a young man, a stranger and a
Scotchman, does not refute the unjust opinion of the harshness of his
general demeanour. His occasional reproofs of folly, impudence, or
impiety, and even the sudden sallies of his constitutional irritability
of temper, which have been preserved for the poignancy of their wit,
have produced that opinion among those who have not considered that such
instances, though collected by Mrs. Piozzi into a small volume, and read
over in a few hours, were, in fact, scattered through a long series of
years; years, in which his time was chiefly spent in instructing and
delighting mankind by his writings and conversation, in acts of piety to
GOD, and good-will to men[1204].

I complained to him that I had not yet acquired much knowledge, and
asked his advice as to my studies[1205]. He said, 'Don't talk of study now.
I will give you a plan; but it will require some time to consider of
it.' 'It is very good in you (I replied,) to allow me to be with you
thus. Had it been foretold to me some years ago that I should pass an
evening with the authour of _The Rambler_, how should I have exulted!'
What I then expressed, was sincerely from the heart. He was satisfied
that it was, and cordially answered, 'Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope
we shall pass many evenings and mornings too, together.' We finished a
couple of bottles of port, and sat till between one and two in the

[Page 411: Oliver Goldsmith. AEtat 54.]

He wrote this year in the _Critical Review_ the account of 'Telemachus,
a Mask,' by the Reverend George Graham, of Eton College[1206]. The subject
of this beautiful poem was particularly interesting to Johnson, who had
much experience of 'the conflict of opposite principles,' which he
describes as 'The contention between pleasure and virtue, a struggle
which will always be continued while the present system of nature shall
subsist: nor can history or poetry exhibit more than pleasure triumphing
over virtue, and virtue subjugating pleasure.'

[Page 412: Oliver Goldsmith. A.D. 1763.]

As Dr. Oliver Goldsmith will frequently appear in this narrative, I
shall endeavour to make my readers in some degree acquainted with his
singular character. He was a native of Ireland, and a contemporary with
Mr. Burke at Trinity College, Dublin, but did not then give much promise
of future celebrity[1207]. He, however, observed to Mr. Malone, that
'though he made no great figure in mathematicks[1208], which was a study in
much repute there, he could turn an Ode of Horace into English better
than any of them.' He afterwards studied physick at Edinburgh, and upon
the Continent; and I have been informed, was enabled to pursue his
travels on foot[1209], partly by demanding at Universities to enter the
lists as a disputant, by which, according to the custom of many of them,
he was entitled to the premium of a crown, when luckily for him his
challenge was not accepted; so that, as I once observed to Dr. Johnson,
he _disputed_ his passage through Europe[1210]. He then came to England,
and was employed successively in the capacities of an usher to an
academy, a corrector of the press, a reviewer, and a writer for a
news-paper. He had sagacity enough to cultivate assiduously the
acquaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually enlarged by
the contemplation of such a model. To me and many others it appeared
that he studiously copied the manner of Johnson[1211], though, indeed, upon
a smaller scale.

At this time I think he had published nothing with his name[1212], though
it was pretty generally known that _one Dr. Goldsmith_ was the authour
of _An Enquiry into the present State of polite Learning in Europe_[1213],
and of _The Citizen of the World_[1214], a series of letters supposed to be
written from London by a Chinese. No man had the art of displaying with
more advantage as a writer, whatever literary acquisitions he made.
'_Nihil quod tetigit non ornavit_'[1215]. His mind resembled a fertile, but
thin soil. There was a quick, but not a strong vegetation, of whatever
chanced to be thrown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of
the forest did not grow there; but the elegant shrubbery and the
fragrant parterre appeared in gay succession. It has been generally
circulated and believed that he was a mere fool in conversation[1216]; but,
in truth, this has been greatly exaggerated.

He had, no doubt, a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which
we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes produces a
laughable confusion in expressing them. He was very much what the French
call _un etourdi_[1217], and from vanity and an eager desire of being
conspicuous wherever he was, he frequently talked carelessly without
knowledge of the subject, or even without thought. His person was short,
his countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar
awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman[1218]. Those who were in any way
distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that the
instances of it are hardly credible[1219]. When accompanying two beautiful
young ladies[1220] with their mother on a tour in France, he was seriously
angry that more attention was paid to them than to him[1221]; and once at
the exhibition of the _Fantoccini_[1222] in London, when those who sat next
him observed with what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, he
could not bear that it should have such praise, and exclaimed with some
warmth, 'Pshaw! I can do it better myself[1223].'

[Page 415: The Vicar of Wakefield. AEtat 54.]

He, I am afraid, had no settled system of any sort[1224], so that his
conduct must not be strictly scrutinised; but his affections were social
and generous, and when he had money he gave it away very liberally. His
desire of imaginary consequence predominated over his attention to
truth. When he began to rise into notice, he said he had a brother who
was Dean of Durham[1225], a fiction so easily detected, that it is
wonderful how he should have been so inconsiderate as to hazard it. He
boasted to me at this time of the power of his pen in commanding money,
which I believe was true in a certain degree, though in the instance he
gave he was by no means correct. He told me that he had sold a novel for
four hundred pounds. This was his _Vicar of Wakefield_. But Johnson
informed me, that he had made the bargain for Goldsmith, and the price
was sixty pounds[1226]. 'And, Sir, (said he,) a sufficient price too, when
it was sold; for then the fame of Goldsmith had not been elevated, as it
afterwards was, by his _Traveller_; and the bookseller had such faint
hopes of profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a
long time, and did not publish it till after _The Traveller_ had
appeared[1227]. Then, to be sure, it was accidentally worth more

Mrs. Piozzi[1229] and Sir John Hawkins[1230] have strangely mis-stated the
history of Goldsmith's situation and Johnson's friendly interference,
when this novel was sold. I shall give it authentically from Johnson's
own exact narration:--'I received one morning a message from poor
Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and as it was not in his power
to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I
sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly
went as soon as I was drest, and found that his landlady had arrested
him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that
he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a
glass before him[1231]. 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[1232].'

[Page 417: Dr. John Campbell. AEtat 54.]

My next meeting with Johnson was on Friday the 1st of July, when he and
I and Dr. Goldsmith supped together at the Mitre. I was before this time
pretty well acquainted with Goldsmith, who was one of the brightest
ornaments of the Johnsonian school[1233]. 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 attempted this evening to maintain, I suppose from an
affectation of paradox, 'that knowledge was not desirable on its own
account, for it often was a source of unhappiness.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir,
that knowledge may in some cases produce unhappiness, I allow. But, upon
the whole, knowledge, _per se_, is certainly an object which every man
would wish to attain, although, perhaps, he may not take the trouble
necessary for attaining it[1234].'

[Page 418: Churchill's attack on Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

Dr. John Campbell[1235], 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 _Herinipptis Redivivus_[1236] is very
entertaining, as an account of the Hermetick philosophy, and as
furnishing a curious history of the extravagancies of the human mind. If
it were merely imaginary it would be nothing at all. Campbell is not
always rigidly careful of truth in his conversation; but I do not
believe there is any thing of this carelessness in his books[1237].
Campbell is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the
inside of a church for many years[1238]; but he never passes a church
without pulling off his hat[1239]. This shews that he has good
principles[1240]. I used to go pretty often to Campbell's on a Sunday
evening[1241] till I began to consider that the shoals of Scotchmen who
flocked about him might probably say, when any thing of mine was well
done, 'Ay, ay, he has learnt this of CAWMELL!'

[Page 419: Churchill's poetry. AEtat 54.]

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, and 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, I am a very fair judge. He
did not attack me violently till he found I did not like his poetry[1242];
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[1243] at first, and I
will call him a blockhead still. However, I will acknowledge that I have
a better opinion of him now, than I once had; for he has shewn more
fertility than I expected[1244]. 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 only a few.'

[Page 420: Bonnell Thornton's ODE. A.D. 1763.]

In this depreciation of Churchill's poetry I could not agree with
him[1245]. It is very true that the greatest part of it is upon the topicks
of the day, on which account, as it brought him great fame and profit at
the time[1246], it must proportionally slide out of the publick attention
as other occasional objects succeed. But Churchill had extraordinary
vigour both of thought and expression. His portraits of the players will
ever be valuable to the true lovers of the drama; and his strong
caricatures of several eminent men of his age, will not be forgotten by
the curious. Let me add, that there are in his works many passages which
are of a general nature[1247]; and his _Prophecy of Famine_ is a poem of no
ordinary merit. It is, indeed, falsely injurious to Scotland, but
therefore may be allowed a greater share of invention.

Bonnell Thornton had just published a burlesque _Ode on St. Cecilia's
day, adapted to the ancient British musick, viz. the salt-box, the
Jew's-harp, the marrow-bones and cleaver, the humstrum or hurdy-gurdy,
&c_. Johnson praised its humour, and seemed much diverted with it. He
repeated the following passage:--

'In strains more exalted the salt-box shall join,
And clattering and battering and clapping combine;
With a rap and a tap while the hollow side sounds,
Up and down leaps the flap, and with rattling rebounds[1248].

I mentioned the periodical paper called _The Connoisseur[1249]_. He said it
wanted matter.--No doubt it has 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 _Connoisseur_.

[Page 421: Tea with Miss Williams. AEtat 54.]

Let me here apologize for the imperfect manner in which I am obliged to
exhibit Johnson's conversation at this period. In the early part of my
acquaintance with him, I was so wrapt in admiration of his extraordinary
colloquial talents, and so little accustomed to his peculiar mode of
expression, that I found it extremely difficult to recollect and record
his conversation with its genuine vigour and vivacity. In progress of
time, when my mind was, as it were, _strongly impregnated--with the
Johnsonian aether_, I could, with much more facility and exactness, carry
in my memory and commit to paper the exuberant variety of his wisdom and

At this time _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[1250], 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 oblivion 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
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

On Tuesday the 5th of July, I 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 _flower-bespangled meads_.'

[Page 422: The immensity of London. A.D. 1763.]

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 crouded together, that the
wonderful immensity of London consists.'--I have often amused myself
with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They,
whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one
particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician
thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its different
departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man,
as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon 'Change; a
dramatick enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a
man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns, and the great emporium for
ladies of easy virtue. But the intellectual man is struck with it, as
comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the
contemplation of which is inexhaustible[1252].

[Page 423: Goldsmith's eagerness to shine. AEtat 54.]

On Wednesday, July 6, 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 was exceedingly
uneasy at the aukward 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 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. I 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 I 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 could
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 for a year, you may certainly use them as you think fit.
So, Sir, you may quarter two life-guardsmen 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 assafoetida 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[1253], who was desirous of being in company with my illustrious
friend, while I, in my turn, was proud to have the honour of shewing one
of my countrymen upon what easy terms Johnson permitted me to live with

[Page 424: The lawfulness of rebellion. A.D. 1763.]

Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerness, to
_shine_[1254], and disputed very warmly with Johnson against 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 is 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[1255].
Redress is always to be had against oppression, by punishing the
immediate agents. The King, though he should command, cannot force a
Judge to condemn a 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_.' I 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[1256].

This generous sentiment, which he uttered with great fervour, struck me
exceedingly, and stirred my blood to that pitch of fancied resistance,
the possibility of which I am glad to keep in mind, but to which I trust
I never shall be forced.

[Page 425: A Scotchman's noblest prospect. AEtat 54.]

'Great abilities (said he) are not requisite for an Historian; for in
historical composition, all the greatest powers of the human mind are
quiescent. He 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[1257].'

'Bayle's _Dictionary_ is a very useful work for those to consult who
love the biographical part of literature, which is what I love most.'

Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign, he observed, 'I
think Dr. Arbuthnot the first man among them[1259]. He was the most
universal genius, being an excellent physician, a man of deep learning,
and a man of much humour. Mr. Addison 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 round Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had
studied physick there, contradicted this, very untruly, with a sneering
laugh[1260]. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie then took new
ground, where, I suppose, he thought himself perfectly safe; for he
observed, that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. JOHNSON.
'I 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
Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England[1261]!'

[Page 426: The influence of weather. A.D. 1763.]

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 9, 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 of spirits which such weather occasioned[1262];
adding, however, that it was good for the vegetable creation. Johnson,
who, as we have already seen[1263], 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.

[Page 427: Boswell's father. AEtat 54.]

Feeling myself now quite at ease as his companion, though I had all
possible reverence for him, I expressed a regret that I could not be so
easy with my father[1264], 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[1265].' 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 only 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[1266]. I mentioned to him that Dr. Adam Smith, in
his lectures upon composition, when I studied under him in the College
of Glasgow, had maintained the same 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[1267]; but had I known that he loved
rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have HUGGED him.'

[Page 428: The evidences of Christianity. A.D. 1763.]

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 our 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, but that
they have beat the French. Now suppose you should go over and find that
it is really 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 objections, we have no doubt
that Canada is really ours. 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. I 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 day, and so may acquire a
great deal of knowledge[1268].'

[Page 429: Johnson's pension. AEtat 54.]

To a man of vigorous intellect and arduous curiosity like his own,
reading without a regular plan may be beneficial; though even such a man
must submit to it, if he would attain a full understanding of any of the

To such a degree of unrestrained frankness had he now accustomed me,
that in the course of this evening I talked of the numerous reflections
which had been thrown out against him[1269] 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[1270]. 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[1271]; 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. But, Sir, I think that the
pleasure of cursing the House of Hanover, and drinking King James's
health, are amply overbalanced by three hundred pounds a year.'

[Page 430: Johnson's Jacobitism. A.D. 1763.]

There was here, most certainly, an affectation of more Jacobitism than
he really had; and indeed an intention of admitting, for the moment, in
a much greater extent than it really existed, the charge of disaffection
imputed to him by the world[1272], merely for the purpose of shewing how
dexterously he could repel an attack, even though he were placed in the
most disadvantageous position; for I have heard him declare, that if
holding up his right hand would have secured victory at Culloden to
Prince Charles's army, he was not sure he would have held it up; so
little confidence had he in the right claimed by the house of Stuart,
and so fearful was he of the consequences of another revolution on the
throne of Great-Britain; and Mr. Topham Beauclerk assured me, he had
heard him say this before he had his pension. At another time he said to
Mr. Langton, 'Nothing has ever offered, that has made it worth my while
to consider the question fully.' He, however, also said to the same
gentleman, talking of King James the Second, 'It was become impossible
for him to reign any longer in this country.'[1273] He no doubt had an
early attachment to the House of Stuart; but his zeal had cooled as his
reason strengthened. Indeed I heard him once say, that 'after the death
of a violent Whig, with whom he used to contend with great eagerness, he
felt his Toryism much abated.'[1274] I suppose he meant Mr. Walmsley.

[Page 431: Whiggism. AEtat 54.]

Yet there is no doubt that at earlier periods 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,[1276] 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, I hope you are a Jacobite.' 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 _Whiggism is a negation of all principle_[1277].'

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 I
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, and shows,
and Arcadian scenes. He was of Lord Essex's opinion, who advises his
kinsman Roger Earl of Rutland, 'rather to go an hundred miles to speak
with one wise man, than five miles to see a fair town[1278].'

[Page 432: Lord Hailes. A.D. 1763.]

I described to him an impudent fellow[1279] from Scotland, who affected to
be a savage, and railed at all established systems. JOHNSON. 'There is
nothing surprizing 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, Sir, 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[1280].'

Sir David Dalrymple, 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 eminent character for learning and religion[1281]; 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 best respects to
him, and to assure him of the veneration which I entertain for the
authour of the _Rambler_ and of _Rasselas_? Let me recommend this last
work to you; with the _Rambler_ you certainly are acquainted. In
_Rasselas_ 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, _Ita feri ut se sentiat emori_[1282].'

[Page 433: Journal-keeping. AEtat 54.]

Johnson seemed to be much gratified by this just and well-turned

He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and
unreserved[1283]. 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 previous
coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept such a
journal for some time[1284]; and it was no small pleasure to me 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, which 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

[Page 434: Sir Thomas Robinson. A.D. 1763.]

Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on me, and was so much struck
even with the imperfect account which I 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[1286].'

[Page 435: The King of Prussia. AEtat 54.]

On Tuesday, July 18[1287], I found tall Sir Thomas Robinson[1288]
sitting with Johnson. Sir Thomas said, that the king of Prussia valued
himself upon three things;--upon being a hero, a musician, and an
authour. JOHNSON. 'Pretty well, Sir, for one man. As to his being an
authour, I have not looked at his poetry; but his prose is poor stuff.
He writes just as you might 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.' When I was at Ferney, I repeated this to Voltaire, in order to
reconcile him somewhat to Johnson, whom he, in affecting the English mode
of expression, had previously characterised as 'a superstitious dog;' but
after hearing such a criticism on Frederick the Great, with whom he was
then on bad terms, he exclaimed, 'An honest fellow[1289]!'

But I think the criticism much too severe; for the _Memoirs of the House
of Brandenburgh_ are written as well as many works of that kind. His
poetry, for the style of which he himself makes a frank apology,
'_Jargonnant un Francois barbare_,' though fraught with pernicious
ravings of infidelity, has, in many places, great animation, and in some
a pathetick tenderness[1290].

Upon this contemptuous animadversion on the King of Prussia, I observed
to Johnson, 'It would seem then, Sir, that much less parts are necessary
to make a King, than to make an Authour; for the King of Prussia is
confessedly the greatest King now in Europe, yet you think he makes a
very poor figure as an Authour.'

[Page 436: Johnson's library. A.D. 1763.]

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[1291]. I found a
number of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion[1292]. 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 Rambler_ or of _Rasselas_. I observed an
apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life
very fond[1293]. 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 at
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 distinguishers.
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.

[Page 437: Copyright in books. AEtat 54.]

Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall[1294], who had been my
intimate friend for many years, had at this time chambers in
Farrar's-buildings, 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 London, supped with me at these
Chambers. JOHNSON. 'Pity is not natural to man. Children are always
cruel. Savages 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 his 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
Property_[1295]. Johnson, though he concurred in the opinion which was
afterwards sanctioned by a judgement of the House of Lords[1296], 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_[1297], that
he, who buys the copyright of a book from the authour, 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, I say, takes advantage here, of people who have really an
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[1298].' 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.'

[Page 439: Humes style. AEtat 54.]

It 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[1299], Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity; but he
thought that the term of the exclusive right of authours 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[1300]. 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.'

[Page 440: Merit set against fortune. A.D. 1763.]

Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind[1301] was at this time a
fashionable topick. 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 value only merit. JOHNSON. 'If man were a savage, living in the woods
by himself, this might be true; 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 society, 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[1302].

[Page 441: The 'advantages' of poverty. AEtat 54.]

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[1303] 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 made of good bull's hide. Now, Sir, all beyond this
is artificial, and is desired in order to obtain a greater degree of
respect from our fellow-creatures. And, Sir, if six hundred pounds a
year procure a man more consequence, and, of course, more happiness than
six pounds a year, the same proportion will hold as to six thousand, and
so on as far as opulence can be carried. Perhaps he who has a large
fortune may not be so happy as he who has a small one; but that must
proceed from other causes than from his having the large fortune: for,
_caeteris paribus_, he who is rich in a civilized society, must be
happier than he who is poor; as riches, if properly used, (and it is a
man's own fault if they are not,) must be productive of the highest
advantages. Money, to be sure, of itself is of no use; for its only use
is to part with it. Rousseau, and all those who deal in paradoxes, are
led away by a childish desire of novelty[1304]. When I was a boy, I used
always to choose the wrong side of a debate, because most ingenious
things, that is to say, most new things, could be said upon it. Sir,
there is nothing for which you may not muster up more plausible
arguments, than those which are urged against wealth and other external
advantages. Why, now, there is stealing; why should it be thought a
crime? When we consider by what unjust methods property has been often
acquired, and that what was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep,
where is the harm in one man's taking the property of another from him?
Besides, Sir, when we consider the bad use that many people make of
their property, and how much better use the thief may make of it, it may
be defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, Sir, the experience of
mankind has discovered stealing to be so very bad a thing, that they
make no scruple to hang a man for it. When I was running about this town
a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advantages of poverty;
but I was, at the same time, very sorry to be poor. Sir, all the
arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, shew it to
be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince
you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune.--So you
hear people talking how miserable a King must be; and yet they all wish
to be in his place[1305].'

[Page 442: Great Kings always social. A.D. 1763.]

It was suggested that Kings must be unhappy, because they are deprived
of the greatest of all satisfactions, easy and unreserved society.
JOHNSON. 'That is an ill-founded notion. Being a King does not exclude a
man from such society. Great Kings have always been social. The King of
Prussia, the only great King at present, is very social[1306]. Charles the
Second, the last King of England who was a man of parts, was social; and
our Henrys and Edwards were all social.'

Mr. Dempster having endeavoured to maintain that intrinsick merit
_ought_ to make the only distinction amongst mankind. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, mankind have found that this cannot be. How shall we determine the
proportion of intrinsick merit? Were that to be the only distinction
amongst mankind, we should soon quarrel about the degrees of it. Were
all distinctions abolished, the strongest would not long acquiesce, but
would endeavour to obtain a superiority by their bodily strength. But,
Sir, as subordination is very necessary for society, and contensions for
superiority very dangerous, mankind, that is to say, all civilized
nations, have settled it upon a plain invariable principle. A man is
born to hereditary rank; or his being appointed to certain offices,
gives him a certain rank. Subordination tends greatly to human
happiness. Were we all upon an equality, we should have no other
enjoyment than mere animal pleasure[1307].'

[Page 443: Johnson's respect for rank. AEtat 54.]

I said, I considered distinction of rank to be of so much importance in
civilised society, that if I were asked on the same day to dine with the
first Duke in England, and with the first man in Britain for genius, I
should hesitate which to prefer. JOHNSON. 'To be sure, Sir, if you were
to dine only once, and it were never to be known where you dined, you
would choose rather to dine with the first man for genius; but to gain
most respect, you should dine with the first Duke in England. For nine
people in ten that you meet with, would have a higher opinion of you for
having dined with a Duke; and the great genius himself would receive you
better, because you had been with the great Duke.'

He took care to guard himself against any possible suspicion that his
settled principles of reverence for rank and respect for wealth were at
all owing to mean or interested motives; for he asserted his own
independence as a literary man. 'No man (said he) who ever lived by
literature, has lived more independently than I have done.' He said he
had taken longer time than he needed to have done in composing his
_Dictionary_. He received our compliments upon that great work with
complacency, and told us that the Academy _della Crusca_[1308] could
scarcely believe that it was done by one man.

[Page 444: Sceptical innovators. A.D. 1763.]

Next morning I found him alone, and have preserved the following
fragments of his conversation. Of a gentleman[1309] who was mentioned, he
said, 'I have not met with any man for a long time who has given me such
general displeasure. He is totally unfixed in his principles, and wants
to puzzle other people. I said his principles had been poisoned by a
noted infidel writer, but that he was, nevertheless, a benevolent good
man. JOHNSON. 'We can have no dependance upon that instinctive, that
constitutional goodness which is not founded upon principle. I grant you
that such a man may be a very amiable member of society. I can conceive
him placed in such a situation that he is not much tempted to deviate
from what is right; and as every man prefers virtue, when there is not
some strong incitement to transgress its precepts, I can conceive him
doing nothing wrong. But if such a man stood in need of money, I should
not like to trust him; and I should certainly not trust him with young
ladies, for _there_ there is always temptation. Hume, and other
sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any
expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they
have betaken themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield
such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull[1310]. If I
could have allowed myself to gratify my vanity at the expence of truth,
what fame might I have acquired. Every thing which Hume has advanced
against Christianity had passed through my mind long before he wrote.
Always remember this, that after a system is well settled upon positive
evidence, a few partial objections ought not to shake it. The human mind
is so limited, that it cannot take in all the parts of a subject, so
that there may be objections raised against any thing. There are
objections against a _plenum_, and objections against a _vacuum_; yet
one of them must certainly be true[1311].'

[Page 445: The proofs of Christianity. AEtat 54.]

I mentioned Hume's argument against the belief of miracles, that it is
more probable that the witnesses to the truth of them are mistaken, or
speak falsely, than that the miracles should be true[1312]. JOHNSON.
'Why, Sir, the great difficulty of proving miracles should make us very
cautious in believing them. But let us consider; although GOD has made
Nature to operate by certain fixed laws, yet it is not unreasonable to
think that he may suspend those laws, in order to establish a system
highly advantageous to mankind. Now the Christian religion is a most
beneficial system, as it gives us light and certainty where we were
before in darkness and doubt. The miracles which prove it are attested
by men who had no interest in deceiving us; but who, on the contrary,
were told that they should suffer persecution, and did actually lay down
their lives in confirmation of the truth of the facts which they
asserted. Indeed, for some centuries the heathens did not pretend to
deny the miracles; but said they were performed by the aid of evil
spirits. This is a circumstance of great weight. Then, Sir, when we take
the proofs derived from prophecies which have been so exactly fulfilled,
we have most satisfactory evidence. Supposing a miracle possible, as to
which, in my opinion, there can be no doubt, we have as strong evidence
for the miracles in support of Christianity, as the nature of the thing

At night Mr. Johnson and I supped in a private room at the Turk's Head
coffee-house, in the Strand[1313]. 'I encourage this house (said he;) for
the mistress of it is a good civil woman, and has not much business.'

'Sir, I love the acquaintance of young people; because, in the first
place, I don't like to think myself growing old. In the next place,
young acquaintances must last longest, if they do last; and then, Sir,
young men have more virtue than old men; they have more generous
sentiments in every respect[1314]. I love the young dogs of this age: they
have more wit and humour and knowledge of life than we had; but then the
dogs are not so good scholars, Sir, in my early years I read very hard.
It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I knew almost as much at
eighteen as I do now[1315]. My judgement, to be sure, was not so good; but
I had all the facts. I remember very well, when I was at Oxford, an old
gentleman said to me, "Young man, ply your book diligently now, and
acquire a stock of knowledge; for when years come upon you, you will
find that poring upon books will be but an irksome task."'

[Page 446: Remedies for melancholy. A.D. 1763.]

This account of his reading, given by himself in plain words,
sufficiently confirms what I have already advanced upon the disputed
question as to his application. It reconciles any seeming inconsistency
in his way of talking upon it at different times; and shews that
idleness and reading hard were with him relative terms, the import of
which, as used by him, must be gathered from a comparison with what
scholars of different degrees of ardour and assiduity have been known to
do. And let it be remembered, that he was now talking spontaneously, and
expressing his genuine sentiments; whereas at other times he might be
induced from his spirit of contradiction, or more properly from his love
of argumentative contest, to speak lightly of his own application to
study. It is pleasing to consider that the old gentleman's gloomy
prophecy as to the irksomeness of books to men of an advanced age, which
is too often fulfilled, was so far from being verified in Johnson, that
his ardour for literature never failed, and his last writings had more
ease and vivacity than any of his earlier productions.

He mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he had been distrest by
melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and
meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he
recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise,
moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at
night. He said melancholy people were apt to fly to intemperance for
relief, but that it sunk them much deeper in misery[1316]. He observed,
that labouring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or
never troubled with low spirits.

[Page 447: Mrs. Macaulay's footman. AEtat 54.]

[Page 448: Levelling up. A.D. 1763.]

He again insisted on the duty of maintaining subordination of rank.
'Sir, I would no more deprive a nobleman of his respect, than of his
money. I consider myself as acting a part in the great system of
society, and I do to others as I would have them to do to me. I would
behave to a nobleman as I should expect he would behave to me, were I a
nobleman and he Sam. Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay[1317] in this
town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a
very grave countenance, and said to her, "Madam, I am now become a
convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are
upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam,
that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved
fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit
down and dine with us[1318]." I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the
levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers
wish to level _down_ as far as themselves; but they cannot bear
levelling _up_ to themselves. They would all have some people under
them; why not then have some people above them?' I mentioned a certain
authour who disgusted me by his forwardness, and by shewing no deference
to noblemen into whose company he was admitted. JOHNSON. 'Suppose a
shoemaker should claim an equality with him, as he does with a Lord; how
he would stare. "Why, Sir, do you stare? (says the shoemaker,) I do
great service to society. 'Tis true I am paid for doing it; but so are
you, Sir: and I am sorry to say it, paid better than I am, for doing
something not so necessary. For mankind could do better without your
books, than without my shoes." Thus, Sir, there would be a perpetual
struggle for precedence, were there no fixed invariable rules for the
distinction of rank, which creates no jealousy, as it is allowed to be

He said, Dr. Joseph Warton was a very agreeable man, and his _Essay on
the Genius and Writings of Pope_, a very pleasing book. I wondered that
he delayed so long to give us the continuation of it[1319]. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, I suppose he finds himself a little disappointed, in not having
been able to persuade the world to be of his opinion as to Pope.'

We have now been favoured with the concluding volume, in which, to use a
parliamentary expression, he has _explained_, so as not to appear quite
so adverse to the opinion of the world, concerning Pope, as was at first
thought[1320]; and we must all agree that his work is a most valuable
accession to English literature.

[Page 449: Sir James Macdonald. AEtat 54.]

A writer of deserved eminence[1321] being mentioned, Johnson said, 'Why,
Sir, he is a man of good parts, but being originally poor, he has got a
love of mean company and low jocularity; a very bad thing, Sir. To laugh
is good, as to talk is good. But you ought no more to think it enough if
you laugh, than you are to think it enough if you talk. You may laugh in
as many ways as you talk; and surely _every_ way of talking that is
practised cannot be esteemed.'

[Page 450: Mark's WESTERN ISLES. A.D. 1763.]

I spoke of Sir James Macdonald[1322] as a young man of most distinguished
merit, who united the highest reputation at Eaton and Oxford, with the
patriarchal spirit of a great Highland Chieftain. I mentioned that Sir
James had said to me, that he had never seen Mr. Johnson, but he had a
great respect for him, though at the same time it was mixed with some
degree of terrour[1323]. JOHNSON. 'Sir, if he were to be acquainted with
me, it might lessen both.'

[Page 451: A schoolboy's happiness. AEtat 54.]

The mention of this gentleman led us to talk of the Western Islands of
Scotland, to visit which he expressed a wish that then appeared to me a
very romantick fancy, which I little thought would be afterwards
realised[1324]. He told me, that his father had put Martin's account of
those islands into his hands when he was very young, and that he was
highly pleased with it; that he was particularly struck with the St.
Kilda man's notion that the high church of Glasgow had been hollowed out
of a rock[1325]; a circumstance to which old Mr. Johnson had directed his
attention. He said he would go to the Hebrides with me, when I returned
from my travels, unless some very good companion should offer when I was
absent, which he did not think probable; adding, 'There are few people
to whom I take so much to as you.' And when I talked of my leaving
England, he said with a very affectionate air, 'My dear Boswell, I
should be very unhappy at parting, did I think we were not to meet
again[1326].' I cannot too often remind my readers, that although such
instances of his kindness are doubtless very flattering to me, yet I
hope my recording them will be ascribed to a better motive than to
vanity; for they afford unquestionable evidence of his tenderness and
complacency, which some, while they were forced to acknowledge his great
powers, have been so strenuous to deny.

He maintained that a boy at school was the happiest of human beings[1327].
I supported a different opinion, from which I have never yet varied,
that a man is happier; and I enlarged upon the anxiety and sufferings
which are endured at school. JOHNSON. 'Ah! Sir, a boy's being flogged is
not so severe as a man's having the hiss of the world against him. Men
have a solicitude about fame[1328]; and the greater share they have of it,
the more afraid they are of losing it.' I silently asked myself, 'Is it
possible that the great SAMUEL JOHNSON really entertains any such
apprehension, and is not confident that his exalted fame is established
upon a foundation never to be shaken?'

He this evening drank a bumper to Sir David Dalrymple[1329], 'as a man of
worth, a scholar, and a wit.' 'I have (said he) never heard of him
except from you; but let him know my opinion of him: for as he does not
shew himself much in the world, he should have the praise of the few who
hear of him.'

[Page 452: The Tale Of A Tub. A.D. 1763.]

On Tuesday, July 26, I found Mr. Johnson alone. It was a very wet day,
and I again complained of the disagreeable effects of such weather.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, this is all imagination, which physicians encourage; for
man lives in air, as a fish lives in water; so that if the atmosphere
press heavy from above, there is an equal resistance from below. To be
sure, bad weather is hard upon people who are obliged to be abroad; and
men cannot labour so well in the open air in bad weather, as in good:
but, Sir, a smith or a taylor, whose work is within doors, will surely
do as much in rainy weather, as in fair. Some very delicate frames,
indeed, may be affected by wet weather; but not common constitutions.'

We talked of the education of children; and I asked him what he thought
was best to teach them first. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is no matter what you
teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your
breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in
first, but in the mean time your breech is bare. Sir, while you are
considering which of two things you should teach your child first,
another boy has learnt them both.'

On Thursday, July 28, we again supped in private at the Turk's Head
coffee-house. JOHNSON. 'Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves.
His excellence is strong sense; for his humour, though very well, is not
remarkably good. I doubt whether _The Tale of a Tub_ be his; for he
never owned it, and it is much above his usual manner[1331].'

[Page 453: Mr. Thomas Sheridan's dulness. AEtat 54.]

'Thompson, I think, had as much of the poet about him as most writers.
Every thing appeared to him through the medium of his favourite pursuit.
He could not have viewed those two candles burning but with a poetical

'Has not ----[1333] a great deal of wit, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'I do not think
so, Sir. He is, indeed, continually attempting wit, but he fails. And I
have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in
seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it.'

He laughed heartily, when I mentioned to him a saying of his concerning
Mr. Thomas Sheridan, which Foote took a wicked pleasure to circulate.
'Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a
great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of
stupidity, Sir, is not in Nature.' 'So (said he,) I allowed him all his
own merit.'

[Page 454: Experience the test of truth. A.D. 1763.]

He now added, 'Sheridan cannot bear me. I bring his declamation to a
point. I ask him a plain question, 'What do you mean to teach?' Besides,
Sir, what influence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of this
great country, by his narrow exertions? Sir, it is burning a farthing
candle at Dover, to shew light at Calais[1334].'

Talking of a young man[1335] who was uneasy from thinking that he was very
deficient in learning and knowledge, he said, 'A man has no reason to
complain who holds a middle place, and has many below him; and perhaps
he has not six of his years above him;--perhaps not one. Though he may
not know any thing perfectly, the general mass of knowledge that he has
acquired is considerable. Time will do for him all that is wanting.'

The conversation then took a philosophical turn. JOHNSON. 'Human
experience, which is constantly contradicting theory, is the great test
of truth. A system, built upon the discoveries of a great many minds, is
always of more strength, than what is produced by the mere workings of
any one mind, which, of itself, can do little. There is not so poor a
book in the world that would not be a prodigious effort were it wrought
out entirely by a single mind, without the aid of prior investigators.
The French writers are superficial[1336]; because they are not scholars,
and so proceed upon the mere power of their own minds; and we see how
very little power they have.'

[Page 455: The University of Salamancha. AEtat 54.]

'As to the Christian religion, Sir, besides the strong evidence which we
have for it, there is a balance in its favour from the number of great
men who have been convinced of its truth, after a serious consideration
of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to
examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a
man of the world, who certainly had no bias to the side of religion. Sir
Isaac Newton set out an infidel[1337], and came to be a very firm

He this evening again recommended to me to perambulate Spain[1338]. I said
it would amuse him to get a letter from me dated at Salamancha. JOHNSON.
'I love the University of Salamancha; for when the Spaniards were in
doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the University
of Salamancha gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful.' He spoke
this with great emotion, and with that generous warmth which dictated
the lines in his _London_, against Spanish encroachment[1339].

I expressed my opinion of my friend Derrick as but a poor writer.
JOHNSON. 'To be sure, Sir, he is; but you are to consider that his being
a literary man has got for him all that he has. It has made him King of
Bath[1340]. Sir, he has nothing to say for himself but that he is a
writer. Had he not been a writer, he must have been sweeping the
crossings in the streets, and asking halfpence from every body that past.'

[Page 456: Mr. Derrick. A.D. 1763.]

In justice, however, to the memory of Mr. Derrick, who was my first
tutor in the ways of London, and shewed me the town in all its variety
of departments, both literary and sportive, the particulars of which Dr.
Johnson advised me to put in writing, it is proper to mention what
Johnson, at a subsequent period, said of him both as a writer and an
editor: 'Sir, I have often said, that if Derrick's letters[1341] had been
written by one of a more established name, they would have been thought
very pretty letters[1342].' And, 'I sent Derrick to Dryden's relations to
gather materials for his life; and I believe he got all that I myself
should have got[1343].'

Poor Derrick! I remember him with kindness. Yet I cannot withhold from
my readers a pleasant humourous sally which could not have hurt him had
he been alive, and now is perfectly harmless. In his collection of
poems, there is one upon entering the harbour of Dublin, his native
city, after a long absence. It begins thus:

'Eblana! much lov'd city, hail!
Where first I saw the light of day.'

And after a solemn reflection on his being 'numbered with forgotten
dead,' there is the following stanza:

'Unless my lines protract my fame,
And those, who chance to read them, cry,
I knew him! Derrick was his name,
In yonder tomb his ashes lie.'

Which was thus happily parodied by Mr. John Home, to whom we owe the
beautiful and pathetick tragedy of _Douglas_:

'Unless my _deeds_ protract my fame,
_And he who passes sadly sings_,
I knew him! Derrick was his name,
_On yonder tree his carcase swings_!'

[Page 457: A day at Greenwich. AEtat 54.]

I doubt much whether the amiable and ingenious author of these burlesque
lines will recollect them, for they were produced extempore one evening
while he and I were walking together in the dining-room at Eglintoune
Castle, in 1760, and I have never mentioned them to him since.

Johnson said once to me, 'Sir, I honour Derrick for his presence of
mind. One night, when Floyd[1344], another poor authour, was wandering
about the streets in the night, he found Derrick fast asleep upon a
bulk[1345]; upon being suddenly waked, Derrick started up, "My dear
Floyd, I am sorry to see you in this destitute state; will you go home
with me to _my lodgings_?"'

I again begged his advice as to my method of study at Utrecht. 'Come,
(said he) let us make a day of it. Let us go down to Greenwich and dine,
and talk of it there.' The following Saturday was fixed for this

As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town
accosted us, in the usual enticing manner. 'No, no, my girl, (said
Johnson) it won't do.' He, however, did not treat her with harshness,
and we talked of the wretched life of such women; and agreed, that much
more misery than happiness, upon the whole, is produced by illicit
commerce between the sexes.

[Page 458: The Desire of Knowledge. A.D. 1703.]

On Saturday, July 30, Dr. Johnson and I took a sculler at the
Temple-stairs, and set out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really
thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential
requisite to a good education. JOHNSON. 'Most certainly, Sir; for those
who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay,
Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even
in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much
connected with it.' 'And yet, (said I) people go through the world very
well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without
learning.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning
cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well
without learning, as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the
Argonauts, who were the first sailors.' He then called to the boy, 'What
would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts?' 'Sir (said the
boy,) I would give what I have.' Johnson was much pleased with his
answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me,
'Sir, (said he) a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind;
and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to
give all that he has to get knowledge[1346].'

We landed at the Old Swan[1347], and walked to Billingsgate, where we
took oars, and moved smoothly along the silver Thames. It was a very fine
day. We were entertained with the immense number and variety of ships
that were lying at anchor, and with the beautiful country on each side
of the river.

[Page 459: The Methodists. AEtat 54.]

[Page 460: A course of study. A.D. 1763.]

I talked of preaching, and of the great success which those called
Methodists[1348] have. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is owing to their expressing
themselves in a plain and familiar manner, which is the only way to do
good to the common people, and which clergymen of genius and learning
ought to do from a principle of duty, when it is suited to their
congregations; a practice, for which they will be praised by men of
sense[1349]. To insist against drunkenness as a crime, because it debases
reason, the noblest faculty of man, would be of no service to the common
people: but to tell them that they may die in a fit of drunkenness, and
shew them how dreadful that would be, cannot fail to make a deep
impression. Sir, when your Scotch clergy give up their homely manner,
religion will soon decay in that country.' Let this observation, as
Johnson meant it, be ever remembered.

I was much pleased to find myself with Johnson at Greenwich, which he
celebrates in his _London_ as a favourite scene. I had the poem in my
pocket, and read the lines aloud with enthusiasm:

'On Thames's banks in silent thought we stood:
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood:
Pleas'd[1350] with the seat which gave ELIZA birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth.'

He remarked that the structure of Greenwich hospital was too magnificent
for a place of charity, and that its parts were too much detached to
make one great whole.

Buchanan, he said, was a very fine poet; and observed, that he was the
first who complimented a lady, by ascribing to her the different
perfections of the heathen goddesses[1351]; but that Johnston[1352]
improved upon this, by making his lady, at the same time, free from their

He dwelt upon Buchanan's elegant verses to Mary Queen of Scots, _Nympha
Caledoniae_, &c., and spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin
verse. 'All the modern languages (said he) cannot furnish so melodious a
line as

'Formosam resonare doces Amarillida silvas[1353].'

[Page 461: Nature and Fleet-street. AEtat 54.]

Afterwards he entered upon the business of the day, which was to give me
his advice as to a course of study. And here I am to mention with much
regret, that my record of what he said is miserably scanty. I recollect
with admiration an animating blaze of eloquence, which rouzed every
intellectual power in me to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me
so much, that my memory could not preserve the substance of his
discourse[1354]; for the note which I find of it is no more than this:--'He
ran over the grand scale of human knowledge; advised me to select some
particular branch to excel in, but to acquire a little of every kind.'
The defect of my minutes will be fully supplied by a long letter upon
the subject which he favoured me with, after I had been some time at
Utrecht, and which my readers will have the pleasure to peruse in its
proper place.

We walked in the evening in Greenwich Park. He asked me, I suppose, by
way of trying my disposition, 'Is not this very fine?' Having no
exquisite relish of the beauties of Nature[1355], and being more
delighted with 'the busy hum of men[1356],' I answered, 'Yes, Sir; but
not equal to Fleet-street[1357].' JOHNSON. 'You are right, Sir.'

I am aware that many of my readers may censure my want of taste. Let me,
however, shelter myself under the authority of a very fashionable
Baronet[1358] in the brilliant world, who, on his attention being called
to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observed, 'This may be
very well; but, for my part, I prefer the smell of a flambeau at the

[Page 462: Auchinleck. A.D. 1763.]

We staid so long at Greenwich, that our sail up the river, in our return
to London, was by no means so pleasant as in the morning; for the night
air was so cold that it made me shiver. I was the more sensible of it
from having sat up all the night before, recollecting and writing in my
journal what I thought worthy of preservation; an exertion, which,
during the first part of my acquaintance with Johnson, I frequently
made. I remember having sat up four nights in one week, without being
much incommoded in the day time.

Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by the cold,
scolded me, as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy, saying,
'Why do you shiver?' Sir William Scott,[1360] of the Commons, told me, that
when he complained of a headach in the post-chaise, as they were
travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated him in the same manner:
'At your age, Sir, I had no head-ach.' It is not easy to make allowance
for sensations in others, which we ourselves have not at the time. We
must all have experienced how very differently we are affected by the
complaints of our neighbours, when we are well and when we are ill. In
full health, we can scarcely believe that they suffer much; so faint is
the image of pain upon our imagination: when softened by sickness, we
readily sympathize with the sufferings of others.

We concluded the day at the Turk's Head coffee-house very socially. He
was pleased to listen to a particular account which I gave him of my
family, and of its hereditary estate, as to the extent and population of
which he asked questions, and made calculations; recommending, at the
same time, a liberal kindness to the tenantry, as people over whom the
proprietor was placed by Providence[1361]. He took delight in hearing my
description of the romantick seat of my ancestors. 'I must be there,
Sir, (said he) and we will live in the old castle; and if there is not a
room in it remaining, we will build one.' I was highly flattered, but
could scarcely indulge a hope that Auchinleck would indeed be honoured
by his presence, and celebrated by a description, as it afterwards was,
in his _Journey to the Western Islands_[1362].

[Page 463: Tea with Miss Williams. AEtat 54.]

After we had again talked of my setting out for Holland, he said, 'I
must see thee out of England; I will accompany you to Harwich.' I could
not find words to express what I felt upon this unexpected and very
great mark of his affectionate regard.

Next day, Sunday, July 31, I told him I had been that morning at a
meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder
legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at

On Tuesday, August 2 (the day of my departure from London having been
fixed for the 5th,) Dr. Johnson did me the honour to pass a part of the
morning with me at my Chambers. He said, that 'he always felt an
inclination to do nothing.' I observed, that it was strange to think
that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious
work, _The English Dictionary_.

I mentioned an imprudent publication[1363], by a certain friend of his, at
an early period of life, and asked him if he thought it would hurt him.
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an

I had now made good my title to be a privileged man[1364], and was carried
by him in the evening to drink tea with Miss Williams, whom, though
under the misfortune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable
in conversation; for she had a variety of literature, and expressed
herself well; but her peculiar value was the intimacy in which she had
long lived with Johnson, by which she was well acquainted with his
habits, and knew how to lead him on to talk.

[Page 464: Convocation. A.D. 1763.]

After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, which was a long
narrow paved court in the neighbourhood, overshadowed by some trees.
There we sauntered a considerable time; and I complained to him that my
love of London and of his company was such, that I shrunk almost from
the thought of going away, even to travel, which is generally so much
desired by young men[1365]. He roused me by manly and spirited
conversation. He advised me, when settled in any place abroad, to study
with an eagerness after knowledge, and to apply to Greek an hour every
day; and when I was moving about, to read diligently the great book of

On Wednesday, August 3, we had our last social evening at the Turk's
Head coffee-house, before my setting out for foreign parts. I had the
misfortune, before we parted, to irritate him unintentionally. I
mentioned to him how common it was in the world to tell absurd stories
of him, and to ascribe to him very strange sayings. JOHNSON. 'What do
they make me say, Sir?' BOSWELL. 'Why, Sir, as an instance very strange
indeed, (laughing heartily as I spoke,) David Hume told me, you said
that you would stand before a battery of cannon, to restore the
Convocation to its full powers.' Little did I apprehend that he had
actually said this: but I was soon convinced of my errour; for, with a
determined look, he thundered out 'And would I not, Sir? Shall the
Presbyterian _Kirk_ of Scotland have its General Assembly, and the
Church of England be denied its Convocation?' He was walking up and down
the room while I told him the anecdote; but when he uttered this
explosion of high-church zeal, he had come close to my chair, and his
eyes flashed with indignation.[1366] I bowed to the storm, and diverted
the force of it, by leading him to expatiate on the influence which
religion derived from maintaining the church with great external

I must not omit to mention that he this year wrote _The Life of
Ascham_[dagger], and the Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury[dagger],
prefixed to the edition of that writer's English works, published by Mr.

[Page 465: In the Harwich stage coach. AEtat 54.]

[Page 466: Blacklock's poetry. A.D. 1763.]

On Friday, August 5, we set out early in the morning in the Harwich
stage coach. A fat elderly gentlewoman, and a young Dutchman, seemed the
most inclined among us to conversation. At the inn where we dined, the
gentlewoman said that she had done her best to educate her children; and
particularly, that she had never suffered them to be a moment idle.
JOHNSON. 'I wish, madam, you would educate me too; for I have been an
idle fellow all my life.' 'I am sure, Sir, (said she) you have not been
idle.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Madam, it is very true; and that gentleman there
(pointing to me,) has been idle. He was idle at Edinburgh. His father
sent him to Glasgow, where he continued to be idle. He then came to
London, where he has been very idle; and now he is going to Utrecht,
where he will be as idle as ever.' I asked him privately how he could
expose me so. JOHNSON. 'Poh, poh! (said he) they knew nothing about you,
and will think of it no more.' In the afternoon the gentlewoman talked
violently against the Roman Catholicks, and of the horrours of the
Inquisition. To the utter astonishment of all the passengers but myself,
who knew that he could talk upon any side of a question, he defended the
Inquisition, and maintained, that 'false doctrine should be checked on
its first appearance; that the civil power should unite with the church
in punishing those who dared to attack the established religion, and
that such only were punished by the Inquisition[1368].' He had in his
pocket '_Pomponius Mela de situ Orbis_,' in which he read occasionally,
and seemed very intent upon ancient geography. Though by no means
niggardly, his attention to what was generally right was so minute, that
having observed at one of the stages that I ostentatiously gave a
shilling to the coachman, when the custom was for each passenger to give
only six-pence, he took me aside and scolded me, saying that what I had
done would make the coachman dissatisfied with all the rest of the
passengers, who gave him no more than his due. This was a just
reprimand; for in whatever way a man may indulge his generosity or his
vanity in spending his money, for the sake of others he ought not to
raise the price of any article for which there is a constant demand.

He talked of Mr. Blacklock's poetry, so far as it was descriptive of
visible objects; and observed, that 'as its authour had the misfortune
to be blind, we may be absolutely sure that such passages are
combinations of what he has remembered of the works of other writers who
could see. That foolish fellow, Spence, has laboured to explain
philosophically how Blacklock may have done, by means of his own
faculties, what it is impossible he should do[1369]. The solution, as I
have given it, is plain. Suppose, I know a man to be so lame that he is
absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find him in a different room
from that in which I left him; shall I puzzle myself with idle
conjectures, that, perhaps, his nerves have by some unknown change all
at once become effective? No, Sir; it it clear how he got into a
different room: he was _carried_.'

[Page 467: Torture in Holland. AEtat 54.]

Having stopped a night at Colchester[1370], Johnson talked of that town
with veneration, for having stood a siege for Charles the First. The
Dutchman alone now remained with us. He spoke English tolerably well;
and thinking to recommend himself to us by expatiating on the
superiority of the criminal jurisprudence of this country over that of
Holland, he inveighed against the barbarity of putting an accused person
to the torture, in order to force a confession[1371]. But Johnson was as
ready for this, as for the Inquisition. 'Why, Sir, you do not, I find,
understand the law of your own country. The torture in Holland is
considered as a favour to an accused person; for no man is put to the
torture there, unless there is as much evidence against him as would
amount to conviction in England. An accused person among you, therefore,
has one chance more to escape punishment, than those who are tried among

[Page 468: Johnson's relish for good eating. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 469: A critick of cookery. AEtat 54.]

[Page 470: Studied behaviour. A.D. 1763.]

At supper this night he talked of good eating with uncommon
satisfaction. 'Some people (said he,) have a foolish way of not minding,
or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly
very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who
does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else[1372].' He now
appeared to me _Jean Bull philosophe_, and he was, for the moment, not
only serious but vehement. Yet I have heard him, upon other occasions,
talk with great contempt of people who were anxious to gratify their
palates; and the 206th number of his _Rambler_ is a masterly essay
against gulosity[1373]. His practice, indeed, I must acknowledge, may be
considered as casting the balance of his different opinions upon this
subject; for I never knew any man who relished good eating more than he
did. When at table, he was totally absorbed in the business of the
moment; his looks seemed rivetted to his plate; nor would he, unless
when in very high company, say one word, or even pay the least attention
to what was said by others, till he had satisfied his appetite[1374],
which was so fierce, and indulged with such intenseness, that while in
the act of eating, the veins of his forehead swelled, and generally a
strong perspiration was visible[1375]. To those whose sensations were
delicate, this could not but be disgusting; and it was doubtless not very
suitable to the character of a philosopher, who should be distinguished
by self-command. But it must be owned, that Johnson, though he could be
rigidly _abstemious_, was not a _temperate_ man either in eating or
drinking. He could refrain, but he could not use moderately[1376]. He
told me, that he had fasted two days without inconvenience, and that he
had never been hungry but once[1377]. They who beheld with wonder how
much he eat upon all occasions when his dinner was to his taste, could
not easily conceive what he must have meant by hunger; and not only was
he remarkable for the extraordinary quantity which he eat, but he was,
or affected to be, a man of very nice discernment in the science of
cookery. He used to descant critically on the dishes which had been at
table where he had dined or supped, and to recollect very minutely what
he had liked[1378]. I remember, when he was in Scotland, his praising
'_Gordon's palates_', (a dish of palates at the Honourable Alexander
Gordon's) with a warmth of expression which might have done honour to
more important subjects. 'As for Maclaurin's imitation of a _made dish_,
it was a wretched attempt[1379].' He about the same time was so much
displeased with the performances of a nobleman's French cook, that he
exclaimed with vehemence, 'I'd throw such a rascal into the river;' and
he then proceeded to alarm a lady at whose house he was to sup[1380], by
the following manifesto of his skill: 'I, Madam, who live at a variety
of good tables, am a much better judge of cookery, than any person who
has a very tolerable cook, but lives much at home; for his palate is
gradually adapted to the taste of his cook; whereas, Madam, in trying by
a wider range, I can more exquisitely judge[1381].' When invited to dine,
even with an intimate friend, he was not pleased if something better
than a plain dinner was not prepared for him. I have heard him say on
such an occasion, 'This was a good dinner enough, to be sure; but it was
not a dinner to _ask_ a man to.' On the other hand, he was wont to
express, with great glee, his satisfaction when he had been entertained
quite to his mind. One day when we had dined with his neighbour and
landlord in Bolt-court, Mr. Allen, the printer, whose old housekeeper
had studied his taste in every thing, he pronounced this eulogy: 'Sir,
we could not have had a better dinner had there been a _Synod of

While we were left by ourselves, after the Dutchman had gone to bed, Dr.
Johnson talked of that studied behaviour which many have recommended and
practised. He disapproved of it; and said, 'I never considered whether I
should be a grave man, or a merry man, but just let inclination, for the
time, have its course[1383].'

He flattered me with some hopes that he would, in the course of the
following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour
through the Netherlands.

I teized him with fanciful apprehensions of unhappiness. A moth having
fluttered round the candle, and burnt itself, he laid hold of this
little incident to admonish me; saying, with a sly look, and in a solemn
but quiet tone, 'That creature was its own tormentor, and I believe its
name was BOSWELL.'

[Page 471: Bishop Berkley's sophistry. AEtat 54.]

Next day we got to Harwich to dinner; and my passage in the packet-boat
to Helvoetsluys being secured, and my baggage put on board, we dined at
our inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be terrible if he
should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London, and be
confined to so dull a place. JOHNSON. 'Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to
use big words for little matters[1384]. It would _not_ be _terrible_,
though I _were_ to be detained some time here.' The practice of using
words of disproportionate magnitude, is, no doubt, too frequent every
where; but, I think, most remarkable among the French, of which, all who
have travelled in France must have been struck with innumerable

We went and looked at the church, and having gone into it and walked up
to the altar, Johnson, whose piety was constant and fervent, sent me to
my knees, saying, 'Now that you are going to leave your native country,
recommend yourself to the protection of your CREATOR and REDEEMER.'

[Page 472: Boswell embarks for Holland. A.D. 1763.]

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together
of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of
matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I
observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is
impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which
Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large
stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it _thus_[1385].' This was a
stout exemplification of the _first truths of Pere Bouffier_[1386], or the
_original principles_ of Reid and of Beattie; without admitting which,
we can no more argue in metaphysicks, than we can argue in mathematicks
without axioms. To me it is not conceivable how Berkeley can be answered
by pure reasoning; but I know that the nice and difficult task was to
have been undertaken by one of the most luminous minds of the present
age, had not politicks 'turned him from calm philosophy aside[1387].' What
an admirable display of subtilty, united with brilliance, might his
contending with Berkeley have afforded us[1388]! How must we, when we
reflect on the loss of such an intellectual feast, regret that he should
be characterised as the man,

'Who born for the universe narrow'd his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind[1389]?'

My revered friend walked down with me to the beach, where we embraced
and parted with tenderness, and engaged to correspond by letters. I
said, 'I hope, Sir, you will not forget me in my absence.' JOHNSON.
'Nay, Sir, it is more likely you should forget me, than that I should
forget you.' As the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him for a
considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestick frame in his
usual manner: and at last I perceived him walk back into the town, and
he disappeared[1390].

[Page 473: Johnson's first letter to Boswell. AEtat 54.]

Utrecht seeming at first very dull to me, after the animated scenes of
London, my spirits were grievously affected; and I wrote to Johnson a
plaintive and desponding letter, to which he paid no regard. Afterwards,
when I had acquired a firmer tone of mind, I wrote him a second letter,
expressing much anxiety to hear from him. At length I received the
following epistle, which was of important service to me, and, I trust,
will be so to many others.



'You are not to think yourself forgotten, or criminally neglected, that
you have had yet no letter from me. I love to see my friends, to hear
from them, to talk to them, and to talk of them; but it is not without a
considerable effort of resolution that I prevail upon myself to write. I
would not, however, gratify my own indolence by the omission of any
important duty, or any office of real kindness.

[Page 474: Boswell's character sketched by Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

'To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have or have not been in
the country, that I drank your health in the room in which we sat last
together, and that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with their
former kindness, topicks with which those letters are commonly filled
which are written only for the sake of writing, I seldom shall think
worth communicating; but if I can have it in my power to calm any
harassing disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any
important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, you need not
doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer the pleasure of gratifying a
friend much less esteemed than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle
vacancy. Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of
correspondence, I cannot tell. I shall, at present, expect that you will
receive this in return for two which I have had from you. The first,
indeed, gave me an account so hopeless of the state of your mind, that
it hardly admitted or deserved an answer; by the second I was much
better pleased: and the pleasure will still be increased by such a
narrative of the progress of your studies, as may evince the continuance
of an equal and rational application of your mind to some useful

'You will, perhaps, wish to ask, what study I would recommend. I shall
not speak of theology, because it ought not to be considered as a
question whether you shall endeavour to know the will of GOD.

'I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we are at liberty to
pursue or to neglect; and of these I know not how you will make a better
choice, than by studying the civil law, as your father advises, and the
ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; at least resolve,
while you remain in any settled residence, to spend a certain number of
hours every day amongst your books. The dissipation of thought, of which
you complain, is nothing more than the vacillation of a mind suspended
between different motives, and changing its direction as any motive
gains or loses strength. If you can but kindle in your mind any strong
desire, if you can but keep predominant any wish for some particular
excellence or attainment, the gusts of imagination will break away,
without any effect upon your conduct, and commonly without any traces
left upon the memory.

[Page 475: The Frisick language. AEtat 54.]

'There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction,
which inclines every man first to hope, and then to believe, that Nature
has given him something peculiar to himself. This vanity makes one mind
nurse aversion, and another actuate desires, till they rise by art much
above their original state of power; and as affectation, in time,
improves to habit, they at last tyrannise over him who at first
encouraged them only for show. Every desire is a viper in the bosom,
who, while he was chill, was harmless; but when warmth gave him
strength, exerted it in poison. You know a gentleman, who, when first he
set his foot in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the
vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and universal
negligence to be the most agreeable concomitants of youth, and the
strongest indication of an airy temper and a quick apprehension. Vacant
to every object, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all
appearance of diligence would deduct something from the reputation of
genius; and hoped that he should appear to attain, amidst all the ease
of carelessness, and all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and
those accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick obtain only by
mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. He tried this scheme of life
awhile, was made weary of it by his sense and his virtue; he then wished
to return to his studies; and finding long habits of idleness and
pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still willing to retain
his claim to some extraordinary prerogatives, resolved the common
consequences of irregularity into an unalterable decree of destiny, and
concluded that Nature had originally formed him incapable of rational

'Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished
henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your
resolution; choose, and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in
study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not
that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a complete victory.
Depravity is not very easily overcome. Resolution will sometimes relax,
and diligence will sometimes be interrupted; but let no accidental
surprise or deviation, whether short or long, dispose you to
despondency. Consider these failings as incident to all mankind. Begin
again where you left off, and endeavour to avoid the seducements that
prevailed over you before.

'This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, has been often given
you, and given you without effect. But this advice, if you will not take
from others, you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose to
do the duties of the station to which the bounty of Providence has
called you.

'Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you can. I hope you
continue your journal, and enrich it with many observations upon the
country in which you reside. It will be a favour if you can get me any
books in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor are
maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate servant,
'London, Dec. 8, 1763.'

I am sorry to observe, that neither in my own minutes, nor in my letters
to Johnson, which have been preserved by him, can I find any information
how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. But I shall extract
from one of my letters what I learnt concerning the other subject of his

[Page 476: Johnson's visit to Langton. A.D. 1764.]

'I have made all possible enquiry with respect to the Frisick language,
and find that it has been less cultivated than any other of the northern
dialects; a certain proof of which is their deficiency of books. Of the
old Frisick there are no remains, except some ancient laws preserved by
_Schotanus_ in his _Beschryvinge van die Heerlykheid van Friesland_; and
his _Historia Frisica_. I have not yet been able to find these books.
Professor Trotz, who formerly was of the University of Vranyken in
Friesland, and is at present preparing an edition of all the Frisick
laws, gave me this information. Of the modern Frisick, or what is spoken
by the boors at this day, I have procured a specimen. It is _Gisbert
Japix's Rymelerie_, which is the only book that they have. It is
amazing, that they have no translation of the bible, no treatises of
devotion, nor even any of the ballads and storybooks which are so
agreeable to country people. You shall have _Japix_ by the first
convenient opportunity. I doubt not to pick up _Schotanus_. Mynheer
Trotz has promised me his assistance.'

1764: AETAT. 55.] Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton
family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some
time, much to his satisfaction[1391]. His friend Bennet Langton, it will
not be doubted, did every thing in his power to make the place agreeable
to so illustrious a guest; and the elder Mr. Langton and his lady, being
fully capable of understanding his value, were not wanting in attention.
He, however, told me, that old Mr. Langton, though a man of considerable
learning, had so little allowance to make for his occasional 'laxity of
talk[1392],' that because in the course of discussion he sometimes
mentioned what might be said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the
Romish church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that

Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the advantage of a good
library, and saw several gentlemen of the neighbourhood. I have obtained
from Mr. Langton the following particulars of this period.

He was now fully convinced that he could not have been satisfied with a
country living[1394]; for, talking of a respectable clergyman in
Lincolnshire, he observed, 'This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his
life well. I approve of him, but could not imitate him.'

[Page 477: The Literary Club. AEtat 55.]

To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from blame for neglecting
social attention to worthy neighbours, by saying, 'I would go to them if
it would do them any good,' he said, 'What good, Madam, do you expect to
have in your power to do them? It is shewing them respect, and that is
doing them good.'

So socially accommodating was he, that once when Mr. Langton and he were
driving together in a coach, and Mr. Langton complained of being sick,
he insisted that they should go out and sit on the back of it in the
open air, which they did. And being sensible how strange the appearance
must be, observed, that a countryman whom they saw in a field, would
probably be thinking, 'If these two madmen should come down, what would
become of me[1395]?'

[Page 478: The Literary Club. A.D. 1764.]

[Page 479: List of the members. AEtat 55.]

Soon after his return to London, which was in February, was founded that
CLUB which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral
became distinguished by the title of THE LITERARY CLUB[1396]. Sir Joshua
Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it[1397], to which
Johnson acceded, and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr.
Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent[1398], Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton,
Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier[1399], and Sir John Hawkins[1400]. They met at
the Turk's Head, in Gerrard-street, Soho, one evening in every week, at
seven, and generally continued their conversation till a pretty late
hour[1401]. This club has been gradually increased to its present number,
thirty-five[1402]. After about ten years, instead of supping weekly, it
was resolved to dine together once a fortnight during the meeting of
Parliament. Their original tavern having been converted into a private
house, they moved first to Prince's in Sackville-street, then to Le
Telier's in Dover-street, and now meet at Parsloe's, St. James's-street
[1403]. Between the time of its formation, and the time at which this
work is passing through the press, (June 1792,)[1404] the following
persons, now dead, were members of it: Mr. Dunning, (afterwards Lord
Ashburton,) Mr. Samuel Dyer, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shipley Bishop of St.
Asaph, Mr. Vesey, Mr. Thomas Warton and Dr. Adam Smith. The present
members are,--Mr. Burke, Mr. Langton, Lord Charlemont, Sir Robert
Chambers, Dr. Percy Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Barnard Bishop of Killaloe,
Dr. Marlay Bishop of Clonfert, Mr. Fox, Dr. George Fordyce, Sir William
Scott, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Charles Bunbury, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, Mr.
Sheridan, Mr. Gibbon, Sir William Jones, Mr. Colman, Mr. Steevens, Dr.
Burney, Dr. Joseph Warton, Mr. Malone, Lord Ossory, Lord Spencer, Lord
Lucan, Lord Palmerston, Lord Eliot, Lord Macartney, Mr. Richard Burke
junior, Sir William Hamilton, Dr. Warren, Mr. Courtenay, Dr. Hinchcliffe
Bishop of Peterborough, the Duke of Leeds, Dr. Douglas Bishop of
Salisbury, and the writer of this account.

[Page 480: Garrick and the Literary Club. A.D. 1764.]

Sir John Hawkins[1405] represents himself as a '_seceder_' from this
society, and assigns as the reason of his '_withdrawing_' himself from
it, that its late hours were inconsistent with his domestick
arrangements. In this he is not accurate; for the fact was, that he one
evening attacked Mr. Burke, in so rude a manner, that all the company
testified their displeasure; and at their next meeting his reception was
such, that he never came again[1406].

He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Garrick, of whom he says,
'he trusted that the least intimation of a desire to come among us,
would procure him a ready admission; but in this he was mistaken.
Johnson consulted me upon it; and when I could find no objection to
receiving him, exclaimed,--"He will disturb us by his buffoonery;"--and
afterwards so managed matters that he was never formally proposed, and,
by consequence, never admitted[1407].'

[Page 481: Grainger's Sugar Cane. AEtat 55.]

In justice both to Mr. Garrick and Dr. Johnson, I think it necessary to
rectify this mis-statement. The truth is, that not very long after the
institution of our club, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to
Garrick. 'I like it much, (said he,) I think I shall be of you.' When
Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. Johnson, he was much displeased with
the actor's conceit. '_He'll be of us_, (said Johnson) how does he know
we will _permit_ him? The first Duke in England has no right to hold
such language.' However, when Garrick was regularly proposed some time
afterwards, Johnson, though he had taken a momentary offence at his
arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he was accordingly
elected, was a most agreeable member, and continued to attend our
meetings to the time of his death.

Mrs. Piozzi has also given a similar misrepresentation of Johnson's
treatment of Garrick in this particular, as if he had used these
contemptuous expressions: 'If Garrick does apply, I'll black-ball
him.[1408] Surely, one ought to sit in a society like ours,

'Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player[1409].'

I am happy to be enabled by such unquestionable authority as that of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, as well as from my own knowledge, to vindicate at once
the heart of Johnson and the social merit of Garrick[1410].

[Page 482: Johnson's self-accusations. A.D. 1764.]

In this year, except what he may have done in revising _Shakspeare_, we
do not find that he laboured much in literature. He wrote a review of
Grainger's _Sugar Cane, a Poem_, in the _London Chronicle_. He told me,
that Dr. Percy wrote the greatest part of this review; but, I imagine,
he did not recollect it distinctly, for it appears to be mostly, if not
altogether, his own[1411]. He also wrote in _The Critical Review_, an
account of Goldsmith's excellent poem, _The Traveller_[1412].

The ease and independence to which he had at last attained by royal
munificence, increased his natural indolence. In his _Meditations_ he
thus accuses himself:--

'Good Friday, April 20, 1764.--I have made no reformation; I have lived
totally useless, more sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and

And next morning he thus feelingly complains:--

'My indolence, since my last reception of the sacrament, has sunk into
grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence.
My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality; and, except that from the
beginning of this year I have, in some measure, forborne excess of
strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of
strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become
of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over
me, without leaving any impression.' He then solemnly says,

'This is not the life to which heaven is promised[1414];' and he earnestly
resolves an amendment.

[Page 483: A severe attack of hypochondria. AEtat 55.]

It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious abstraction; viz.
New-year's-day, the day of his wife's death, Good Friday, Easter-day,
and his own birth-day. He this year says[1415]:--'I have now spent
fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost
that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done
nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of
doing is short. 0 GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my
resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. Amen[1416].'

Such a tenderness of conscience, such a fervent desire of improvement,
will rarely be found. It is, surely, not decent in those who are
hardened in indifference to spiritual improvement, to treat this pious
anxiety of Johnson with contempt.

About this time he was afflicted with a very severe return of the
hypochondriack disorder, which was ever lurking about him. He was so
ill, as, notwithstanding his remarkable love of company, to be entirely
averse to society, the most fatal symptom of that malady. Dr. Adams told
me, that as an old friend he was admitted to visit him, and that he
found him in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself,
and restlessly walking from room to room. He then used this emphatical
expression of the misery which he felt: 'I would consent to have a limb
amputated to recover my spirits[1417].'

[Page 484: Johnson's particularities. A.D. 1764.]

Talking to himself was, indeed, one of his singularities ever since I
knew him. I was certain that he was frequently uttering pious
ejaculations; for fragments of the Lord's Prayer have been distinctly
overheard[1418]. His friend Mr. Thomas Davies, of whom Churchill says,

'That Davies hath a very pretty wife[1419],'

when Dr. Johnson muttered 'lead us not into temptation,' used with
waggish and gallant humour to whisper Mrs. Davies, 'You, my dear, are
the cause of this.'

He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured
to ask an explanation[1420]. It appeared to me some superstitious habit,
which he had contracted early, and from which he had never called upon
his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in
at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain point,
or at least so as that either his right or his left foot, (I am not
certain which,) should constantly make the first actual movement when he
came close to the door or passage. Thus I conjecture: for I have, upon
innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to
count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when he had neglected or
gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, I have seen him go back
again, put himself in a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and,
having gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk briskly on, and
join his companion[1421]. A strange instance of something of this nature,
even when on horseback, happened when he was in the isle of Sky[1422].
Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed him to go a good way about, rather than
cross a particular alley in Leicester-fields; but this Sir Joshua
imputed to his having had some disagreeable recollection associated
with it.

[Page 486: Illness of Joshua Reynolds. A.D. 1765.]

That the most minute singularities which belonged to him, and made very
observable parts of his appearance and manner, may not be omitted, it is
requisite to mention, that while talking or even musing as he sat in his
chair, he commonly held his head to one side towards his right shoulder,
and shook it in a tremulous manner, moving his body backwards and
forwards, and rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the palm
of his hand. In the intervals of articulating he made various sounds
with his mouth, sometimes as if ruminating, or what is called chewing
the cud, sometimes giving a half whistle, some-times making his tongue
play backwards from the roof of his mouth, as if clucking like a hen,
and sometimes protruding it against his upper gums in front, as if
pronouncing quickly under his breath, _too, too, too_: all this
accompanied sometimes with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with a
smile. Generally when he had concluded a period, in the course of a
dispute, by which time he was a good deal exhausted by violence and

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