Part 7 out of 12
'Edinburgh, Feb. 20, 1776.
* * * * *
'You have illuminated my mind and relieved me from imaginary shackles of
conscientious obligation. Were it necessary, I could immediately join in
an entail upon the series of heirs approved by my father; but it is
better not to act too suddenly.'
'DR. JOHNSON TO MR. BOSWELL.
'I am glad that what I could think or say has at all contributed to
quiet your thoughts. Your resolution not to act, till your opinion is
confirmed by more deliberation, is very just. If you have been
scrupulous, do not now be rash. I hope that as you think more, and take
opportunities of talking with men intelligent in questions of property,
you will be able to free yourself from every difficulty.
'When I wrote last, I sent, I think, ten packets. Did you receive them
'You must tell Mrs. Boswell that I suspected her to have written without
your knowledge, and therefore did not return any answer, lest a
clandestine correspondence should have been perniciously discovered. I
will write to her soon.
'I am, dear Sir,
'Most affectionately yours,
'Feb. 24, 1776.'
Having communicated to Lord Hailes what Dr. Johnson wrote concerning the
question which perplexed me so much, his Lordship wrote to me: 'Your
scruples have produced more fruit than I ever expected from them; an
excellent dissertation on general principles of morals and law.'
I wrote to Dr. Johnson on the 20th of February, complaining of
melancholy, and expressing a strong desire to be with him; informing him
that the ten packets came all safe; that Lord Hailes was much obliged to
him, and said he had almost wholly removed his scruples against entails.
'To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
'I have not had your letter half an hour; as you lay so much weight upon
my notions, I should think it not just to delay my answer.
'I am very sorry that your melancholy should return, and should be sorry
likewise if it could have no relief but from company. My counsel you may
have when you are pleased to require it; but of my company you cannot in
the next month have much, for Mr. Thrale will take me to Italy, he says,
on the first of April.
'Let me warn you very earnestly against scruples. I am glad that you are
reconciled to your settlement, and think it a great honour to have
shaken Lord Hailes's opinion of entails. Do not, however, hope wholly to
reason away your troubles; do not feed them with attention, and they
will die imperceptibly away. Fix your thoughts upon your business, fill
your intervals with company, and sunshine will again break in upon your
mind. If you will come to me, you must come very quickly; and even
then I know not but we may scour the country together, for I have a mind
to see Oxford and Lichfield, before I set out on this long journey. To
this I can only add, that
'I am, dear Sir,
'Your most affectionate humble servant,
'March 5, 1776.'
To THE SAME.
'Very early in April we leave England, and in the beginning of the next
week I shall leave London for a short time; of this I think it necessary
to inform you, that you may not be disappointed in any of your
enterprises. I had not fully resolved to go into the country before this
'Please to make my compliments to Lord Hailes; and mention very
particularly to Mrs. Boswell my hope that she is reconciled to, Sir,
'Your faithful servant,
'March 12, 1776.'
Above thirty years ago, the heirs of Lord Chancellor Clarendon presented
the University of Oxford with the continuation of his _History_, and
such other of his Lordship's manuscripts as had not been published, on
condition that the profits arising from their publication should be
applied to the establishment of a _Manege_ in the University. The gift
was accepted in full convocation. A person being now recommended to Dr.
Johnson, as fit to superintend this proposed riding-school, he exerted
himself with that zeal for which he was remarkable upon every similar
occasion. But, on enquiry into the matter, he found that the scheme
was not likely to be soon carried into execution; the profits arising
from the Clarendon press being, from some mismanagement, very scanty.
This having been explained to him by a respectable dignitary of the
church, who had good means of knowing it, he wrote a letter upon the
subject, which at once exhibits his extraordinary precision and
acuteness, and his warm attachment to his ALMA MATER.
'To THE REVEREND DR. WETHERELL, MASTER OF UNIVERSITY-COLLEGE, OXFORD.
'Few things are more unpleasant than the transaction of business with
men who are above knowing or caring what they have to do; such as the
trustees for Lord Cornbury's institution will, perhaps, appear, when you
have read Dr. ----'s letter.
'The last part of the Doctor's letter is of great importance. The
complaint which he makes I have heard long ago, and did not know but
it was redressed. It is unhappy that a practice so erroneous has not yet
been altered; for altered it must be, or our press will be useless, with
all its privileges. The booksellers, who, like all other men, have
strong prejudices in their own favour, are enough inclined to think the
practice of printing and selling books by any but themselves, an
encroachment on the rights of their fraternity; and have need of
stronger inducements to circulate academical publications than those of
one another; for, of that mutual co-operation by which the general trade
is carried on, the University can bear no part. Of those whom he neither
loves nor fears, and from whom he expects no reciprocation of good
offices, why should any man promote the interest but for profit? I
suppose, with all our scholastick ignorance of mankind, we are still too
knowing to expect that the booksellers will erect themselves into
patrons, and buy and sell under the influence of a disinterested zeal
for the promotion of learning.
'To the booksellers, if we look for either honour or profit from our
press, not only their common profit, but something more must be allowed;
and if books, printed at Oxford, are expected to be rated at a high
price, that price must be levied on the publick, and paid by the
ultimate purchaser, not by the intermediate agents. What price shall be
set upon the book, is, to the booksellers, wholly indifferent, provided
that they gain a proportionate profit by negociating the sale.
'Why books printed at Oxford should be particularly dear, I am, however,
unable to find. We pay no rent; we inherit many of our instruments and
materials; lodging and victuals are cheaper than at London; and,
therefore, workmanship ought, at least, not to be dearer. Our expences
are naturally less than those of booksellers; and, in most cases,
communities are content with less profit than individuals.
'It is, perhaps, not considered through how many hands a book often
passes, before it comes into those of the reader; or what part of the
profit each hand must retain, as a motive for transmitting it to the
'We will call our primary agent in London, Mr. Cadell, who receives
our books from us, gives them room in his warehouse, and issues them on
demand; by him they are sold to Mr. Dilly a wholesale bookseller, who
sends them into the country; and the last seller is the country
bookseller. Here are three profits to be paid between the printer and
the reader, or in the style of commerce, between the manufacturer and
the consumer; and if any of these profits is too penuriously
distributed, the process of commerce is interrupted.
'We are now come to the practical question, what is to be done? You will
tell me, with reason, that I have said nothing, till I declare how much,
according to my opinion, of the ultimate price ought to be distributed
through the whole succession of sale.
'The deduction, I am afraid, will appear very great: but let it be
considered before it is refused. We must allow, for profit, between
thirty and thirty-five _per cent_., between six and seven shillings in
the pound; that is, for every book which costs the last buyer twenty
shillings, we must charge Mr. Cadell with something less than fourteen.
We must set the copies at fourteen shillings each, and superadd what is
called the quarterly-book, or for every hundred books so charged we must
deliver an hundred and four.
'The profits will then stand thus:--
'Mr. Cadell, who runs no hazard, and gives no credit, will be paid for
warehouse room and attendance by a shilling profit on each book, and his
chance of the quarterly-book.
'Mr. Dilly, who buys the book for fifteen shillings, and who will expect
the quarterly-book if he takes five and twenty, will send it to his
country customer at sixteen and six, by which, at the hazard of loss,
and the certainty of long credit, he gains the regular profit of ten
_per cent_, which is expected in the wholesale trade.
'The country bookseller, buying at sixteen and sixpence, and commonly
trusting a considerable time, gains but three and sixpence, and if he
trusts a year, not much more than two and sixpence; otherwise than as he
may, perhaps, take as long credit as he gives.
'With less profit than this, and more you see he cannot have, the
country bookseller cannot live; for his receipts are small, and his
debts sometimes bad.
'Thus, dear Sir, I have been incited by Dr. ----'s letter to give you a
detail of the circulation of books, which, perhaps, every man has not
had opportunity of knowing; and which those who know it, do not,
perhaps, always distinctly consider.
'I am, &c.
'March 12, 1776.'
Having arrived in London late on Friday, the 15th of March, I hastened
next morning to wait on Dr. Johnson, at his house; but found he was
removed from Johnson's-court, No. 7, to Boltcourt, No. 8, still
keeping to his favourite Fleet-street. My reflection at the time upon
this change as marked in my Journal, is as follows: 'I felt a foolish
regret that he had left a court which bore his name; but it was not
foolish to be affected with some tenderness of regard for a place in
which I had seen him a great deal, from whence I had often issued a
better and a happier man than when I went in, and which had often
appeared to my imagination while I trod its pavements, in the solemn
darkness of the night, to be sacred to wisdom and piety.' Being
informed that he was at Mr. Thrale's, in the Borough, I hastened
thither, and found Mrs. Thrale and him at breakfast. I was kindly
welcomed. In a moment he was in a full glow of conversation, and I felt
myself elevated as if brought into another state of being. Mrs. Thrale
and I looked to each other while he talked, and our looks expressed our
congenial admiration and affection for him. I shall ever recollect this
scene with great pleasure. I exclaimed to her, 'I am now,
intellectually, _Hermippus redivivus_, I am quite restored by him, by
transfusion of mind!' 'There are many (she replied) who admire and
respect Mr. Johnson; but you and I _love_ him.'
He seemed very happy in the near prospect of going to Italy with Mr. and
Mrs. Thrale. 'But, (said he,) before leaving England I am to take a
jaunt to Oxford, Birmingham, my native city Lichfield, and my old
friend, Dr. Taylor's, at Ashbourn, in Derbyshire. I shall go in a few
days, and you, Boswell, shall go with me.' I was ready to accompany him;
being willing even to leave London to have the pleasure of his
I mentioned with much regret the extravagance of the representative of a
great family in Scotland, by which there was danger of its being ruined;
and as Johnson respected it for its antiquity, he joined with me in
thinking it would be happy if this person should die. Mrs. Thrale seemed
shocked at this, as feudal barbarity; and said, 'I do not understand
this preference of the estate to its owner; of the land to the man who
walks upon that land.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Madam, it is not a preference of
the land to its owner, it is the preference of a family to an
individual. Here is an establishment in a country, which is of
importance for ages, not only to the chief but to his people; an
establishment which extends upwards and downwards; that this should be
destroyed by one idle fellow is a sad thing.'
He said, 'Entails are good, because it is good to preserve in a
country, serieses of men, to whom the people are accustomed to look up
as to their leaders. But I am for leaving a quantity of land in
commerce, to excite industry, and keep money in the country; for if no
land were to be bought in the country, there would be no encouragement
to acquire wealth, because a family could not be founded there; or if it
were acquired, it must be carried away to another country where land may
be bought. And although the land in every country will remain the same,
and be as fertile where there is no money, as where there is, yet all
that portion of the happiness of civil life, which is produced by money
circulating in a country, would be lost.' BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, would it
be for the advantage of a country that all its lands were sold at once?'
JOHNSON. 'So far, Sir, as money produces good, it would be an advantage;
for, then that country would have as much money circulating in it as it
is worth. But to be sure this would be counterbalanced by disadvantages
attending a total change of proprietors.'
I expressed my opinion that the power of entailing should be limited
thus: 'That there should be one third, or perhaps one half of the land
of a country kept free for commerce; that the proportion allowed to be
entailed, should be parcelled out so that no family could entail above a
certain quantity. Let a family according to the abilities of its
representatives, be richer or poorer in different generations, or always
rich if its representatives be always wise: but let its absolute
permanency be moderate. In this way we should be certain of there being
always a number of established roots; and as in the course of nature,
there is in every age an extinction of some families, there would be
continual openings for men ambitious of perpetuity, to plant a stock in
the entail ground.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, mankind will be better able
to regulate the system of entails, when the evil of too much land being
locked up by them is felt, than we can do at present when it is not
felt.' I mentioned Dr. Adam Smith's book on _The Wealth of Nations_
which was just published, and that Sir John Pringle had observed to me,
that Dr. Smith, who had never been in trade, could not be expected to
write well on that subject any more than a lawyer upon physick. JOHNSON.
'He is mistaken, Sir: a man who has never been engaged in trade himself
may undoubtedly write well upon trade, and there is nothing which
requires more to be illustrated by philosophy than trade does. As to
mere wealth, that is to say, money, it is clear that one nation or one
individual cannot increase its store but by making another poorer: but
trade procures what is more valuable, the reciprocation of the peculiar
advantages of different countries. A merchant seldom thinks but of his
own particular trade. To write a good book upon it, a man must have
extensive views. It is not necessary to have practised, to write well
upon a subject.' I mentioned law as a subject on which no man could
write well without practice. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, in England, where so
much money is to be got by the practice of the law, most of our writers
upon it have been in practice; though Blackstone had not been much in
practice when he published his _Commentaries_. But upon the Continent,
the great writers on law have not all been in practice: Grotius, indeed,
was; but Puffendorf was not, Burlamaqui was not.'
When we had talked of the great consequence which a man acquired by
being employed in his profession, I suggested a doubt of the justice of
the general opinion, that it is improper in a lawyer to solicit
employment; for why, I urged, should it not be equally allowable to
solicit that as the means of consequence, as it is to solicit votes to
be elected a member of Parliament? Mr. Strahan had told me that a
countryman of his and mine, who had risen to eminence in the law,
had, when first making his way, solicited him to get him employed in
city causes. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is wrong to stir up law-suits; but when
once it is certain that a law-suit is to go on, there is nothing wrong
in a lawyer's endeavouring that he shall have the benefit, rather than
another.' BOSWELL. 'You would not solicit employment, Sir, if you were a
lawyer.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir, but not because I should think it wrong, but
because I should disdain it.' This was a good distinction, which will be
felt by men of just pride. He proceeded: 'However, I would not have a
lawyer to be wanting to himself in using fair means. I would have him to
inject a little hint now and then, to prevent his being overlooked.'
Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch Militia, in supporting which his
Lordship had made an able speech in the House of Commons, was now a
pretty general topick of conversation. JOHNSON. 'As Scotland contributes
so little land-tax towards the general support of the nation, it
ought not to have a militia paid out of the general fund, unless it
should be thought for the general interest, that Scotland should be
protected from an invasion, which no man can think will happen; for what
enemy would invade Scotland, where there is nothing to be got? No, Sir;
now that the Scotch have not the pay of English soldiers spent among
them, as so many troops are sent abroad, they are trying to get money
another way, by having a militia paid. If they are afraid, and seriously
desire to have an armed force to defend them, they should pay for it.
Your scheme is to retain a part of your land-tax, by making us pay and
clothe your militia.' BOSWELL. 'You should not talk of _we_ and _you_,
Sir: there is now an _Union_.' JOHNSON. 'There must be a distinction of
interest, while the proportions of land-tax are so unequal. If Yorkshire
should say, "Instead of paying our land-tax, we will keep a greater
number of militia," it would be unreasonable.' In this argument my
friend was certainly in the wrong. The land-tax is as unequally
proportioned between different parts of England, as between England and
Scotland; nay, it is considerably unequal in Scotland itself. But the
land-tax is but a small part of the numerous branches of publick
revenue, all of which Scotland pays precisely as England does. A French
invasion made in Scotland would soon penetrate into England.
He thus discoursed upon supposed obligation in settling estates:--'Where
a man gets the unlimited property of an estate, there is no obligation
upon him in _justice_ to leave it to one person rather than to another.
There is a motive of preference from _kindness_, and this kindness is
generally entertained for the nearest relation. If I _owe_ a particular
man a sum of money, I am obliged to let that man have the next money I
get, and cannot in justice let another have it: but if I owe money to no
man, I may dispose of what I get as I please. There is not a _debitum
justitice_ to a man's next heir; there is only a _debitum caritatis_. It
is plain, then, that I have morally a choice, according to my liking. If
I have a brother in want, he has a claim from affection to my
assistance; but if I have also a brother in want, whom I like better, he
has a preferable claim. The right of an heir at law is only this, that
he is to have the succession to an estate, in case no other person is
appointed to it by the owner. His right is merely preferable to that of
We got into a boat to cross over to Black-friars; and as we moved along
the Thames, I talked to him of a little volume, which, altogether
unknown to him, was advertised to be published in a few days, under the
title of _Johnsoniana, or Bon-Mots of Dr. Johnson_. JOHNSON, 'Sir,
it is a mighty impudent thing.' BOSWELL. 'Pray, Sir, could you have no
redress if you were to prosecute a publisher for bringing out, under
your name, what you never said, and ascribing to you dull stupid
nonsense, or making you swear profanely, as many ignorant relaters of
your _bon-mots_ do?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; there will always be some
truth mixed with the falsehood, and how can it be ascertained how much
is true and how much is false? Besides, Sir, what damages would a jury
give me for having been represented as swearing?' BOSWELL. 'I think,
Sir, you should at least disavow such a publication, because the world
and posterity might with much plausible foundation say, "Here is a
volume which was publickly advertised and came out in Dr. Johnson's own
time, and, by his silence, was admitted by him to be genuine."'
JOHNSON. 'I shall give myself no trouble about the matter.'
He was, perhaps, above suffering from such spurious publications; but I
could not help thinking, that many men would be much injured in their
reputation, by having absurd and vicious sayings imputed to them; and
that redress ought in such cases to be given.
He said, 'The value of every story depends on its being true. A story is
a picture either of an individual or of human nature in general: if it
be false, it is a picture of nothing. For instance: suppose a man should
tell that Johnson, before setting out for Italy, as he had to cross the
Alps, sat down to make himself wings. This many people would believe;
but it would be a picture of nothing. ---- (naming a worthy friend
of ours,) used to think a story, a story, till I shewed him that truth
was essential to it.' I observed, that Foote entertained us with
stories which were not true; but that, indeed, it was properly not as
narratives that Foote's stories pleased us, but as collections of
ludicrous images. JOHNSON. 'Foote is quite impartial, for he tells lies
of every body.'
The importance of strict and scrupulous veracity cannot be too often
inculcated. Johnson was known to be so rigidly attentive to it, that
even in his common conversation the slightest circumstance was mentioned
with exact precision. The knowledge of his having such a principle
and habit made his friends have a perfect reliance on the truth of every
thing that he told, however it might have been doubted if told by many
others. As an instance of this, I may mention an odd incident which he
related as having happened to him one night in Fleet-street. 'A
gentlewoman (said he) begged I would give her my arm to assist her in
crossing the street, which I accordingly did; upon which she offered me
a shilling, supposing me to be the watchman. I perceived that she was
somewhat in liquor.' This, if told by most people, would have been
thought an invention; when told by Johnson, it was believed by his
friends as much as if they had seen what passed.
We landed at the Temple-stairs, where we parted.
I found him in the evening in Mrs. Williams's room. We talked of
religious orders. He said, 'It is as unreasonable for a man to go into a
Carthusian convent for fear of being immoral, as for a man to cut off
his hands for fear he should steal. There is, indeed, great resolution
in the immediate act of dismembering himself; but when that is once
done, he has no longer any merit: for though it is out of his power to
steal, yet he may all his life be a thief in his heart. So when a man
has once become a Carthusian, he is obliged to continue so, whether he
chooses it or not. Their silence, too, is absurd. We read in the Gospel
of the apostles being sent to preach, but not to hold their tongues. All
severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.
I said to the Lady Abbess of a convent, "Madam, you are here, not for
the love of virtue, but the fear of vice." She said, "She should
remember this as long as she lived."' I thought it hard to give her this
view of her situation, when she could not help it; and, indeed, I
wondered at the whole of what he now said; because, both in his
_Rambler_ and _Idler_, he treats religious austerities with
much solemnity of respect.
Finding him still persevering in his abstinence from wine, I ventured to
speak to him of it.--JOHNSON. 'Sir, I have no objection to a man's
drinking wine, if he can do it in moderation. I found myself apt to go
to excess in it, and therefore, after having been for some time without
it, on account of illness, I thought it better not to return to it.
Every man is to judge for himself, according to the effects which he
experiences. One of the fathers tells us, he found fasting made him so
peevish that he did not practise it.'
Though he often enlarged upon the evil of intoxication, he was by no
means harsh and unforgiving to those who indulged in occasional excess
in wine. One of his friends, I well remember, came to sup at a tavern
with him and some other gentlemen, and too plainly discovered that he
had drunk too much at dinner. When one who loved mischief, thinking to
produce a severe censure, asked Johnson, a few days afterwards, 'Well,
Sir, what did your friend say to you, as an apology for being in such a
situation?' Johnson answered, 'Sir, he said all that a man _should_ say:
he said he was sorry for it.'
I heard him once give a very judicious practical advice upon this
subject: 'A man, who has been drinking wine at all freely, should never
go into a new company. With those who have partaken of wine with him, he
may be pretty well in unison; but he will probably be offensive, or
appear ridiculous, to other people.'
He allowed very great influence to education. 'I do not deny, Sir, but
there is some original difference in minds; but it is nothing in
comparison of what is formed by education. We may instance the science
of _numbers_, which all minds are equally capable of attaining; yet
we find a prodigious difference in the powers of different men, in that
respect, after they are grown up, because their minds have been more or
less exercised in it: and I think the same cause will explain the
difference of excellence in other things, gradations admitting always
some difference in the first principles.' This is a difficult
subject; but it is best to hope that diligence may do a great deal. We
are _sure_ of what it can do, in increasing our mechanical force and
I again visited him on Monday. He took occasion to enlarge, as he often
did, upon the wretchedness of a sea-life. 'A ship is worse than a
gaol. There is, in a gaol, better air, better company, better
conveniency of every kind; and a ship has the additional disadvantage of
being in danger. When men come to like a sea-life, they are not fit to
live on land.'--'Then (said I) it would be cruel in a father to breed
his son to the sea.' JOHNSON. 'It would be cruel in a father who thinks
as I do. Men go to sea, before they know the unhappiness of that way of
life; and when they have come to know it, they cannot escape from it,
because it is then too late to choose another profession; as indeed is
generally the case with men, when they have once engaged in any
particular way of life.'
On Tuesday, March 19, which was fixed for our proposed jaunt, we met in
the morning at the Somerset coffee-house in the Strand, where we were
taken up by the Oxford coach. He was accompanied by Mr. Gwyn, the
architect; and a gentleman of Merton College, whom we did not know, had
the fourth seat. We soon got into conversation; for it was very
remarkable of Johnson, that the presence of a stranger had no restraint
upon his talk. I observed that Garrick, who was about to quit the stage,
would soon have an easier life. JOHNSON. 'I doubt that, Sir.' BOSWELL.
'Why, Sir, he will be Atlas with the burthen off his back.' JOHNSON.
'But I know not, Sir, if he will be so steady without his load. However,
he should never play any more, but be entirely the gentleman, and not
partly the player: he should no longer subject himself to be hissed by a
mob, or to be insolently treated by performers, whom he used to rule
with a high hand, and who would gladly retaliate.' BOSWELL. 'I think he
should play once a year for the benefit of decayed actors, as it has
been said he means to do.' JOHNSON. 'Alas, Sir! he will soon be a
decayed actor himself.'
Johnson expressed his disapprobation of ornamental architecture, such as
magnificent columns supporting a portico, or expensive pilasters
supporting merely their own capitals, 'because it consumes labour
disproportionate to its utility.' For the same reason he satyrised
statuary. 'Painting (said he) consumes labour not disproportionate to
its effect; but a fellow will hack half a year at a block of marble to
make something in stone that hardly resembles a man. The value of
statuary is owing to its difficulty. You would not value the finest head
cut upon a carrot.' Here he seemed to me to be strangely deficient in
taste; for surely statuary is a noble art of imitation, and preserves a
wonderful expression of the varieties of the human frame; and although
it must be allowed that the circumstances of difficulty enhance the
value of a marble head, we should consider, that if it requires a long
time in the performance, it has a proportionate value in durability.
Gwyn was a fine lively rattling fellow. Dr. Johnson kept him in
subjection, but with a kindly authority. The spirit of the artist,
however, rose against what he thought a Gothick attack, and he made a
brisk defence. 'What, Sir, will you allow no value to beauty in
architecture or in statuary? Why should we allow it then in writing? Why
do you take the trouble to give us so many fine allusions, and bright
images, and elegant phrases? You might convey all your instruction
without these ornaments.' Johnson smiled with complacency; but said,
'Why, Sir, all these ornaments are useful, because they obtain an easier
reception for truth; but a building is not at all more convenient for
being decorated with superfluous carved work.'
Gwyn at last was lucky enough to make one reply to Dr. Johnson, which he
allowed to be excellent. Johnson censured him for taking down a church
which might have stood many years, and building a new one at a different
place, for no other reason but that there might be a direct road to a
new bridge; and his expression was, 'You are taking a church out of the
way, that the people may go in a straight line to the bridge.'--'No,
Sir, (said Gwyn,) I am putting the church _in_ the way, that the people
may not _go out of the way_.' JOHNSON, (with a hearty loud laugh of
approbation,) 'Speak no more. Rest your colloquial fame upon this.'
Upon our arrival at Oxford, Dr. Johnson and I went directly to
University College, but were disappointed on finding that one of the
fellows, his friend Mr. Scott, who accompanied him from Newcastle to
Edinburgh, was gone to the country. We put up at the Angel inn, and
passed the evening by ourselves in easy and familiar conversation.
Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, 'A man so afflicted,
Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.'
BOSWELL. 'May not he think them down, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. To
attempt to _think them down_ is madness. He should have a lamp
constantly burning in his bed-chamber during the night, and if wakefully
disturbed, take a book, and read, and compose himself to rest. To have
the management of the mind is a great art, and it may be attained in a
considerable degree by experience and habitual exercise.' BOSWELL.
'Should not he provide amusements for himself? Would it not, for
instance, be right for him to take a course of chymistry?' JOHNSON. 'Let
him take a course of chymistry, or a course of rope-dancing, or a course
of any thing to which he is inclined at the time. Let him contrive to
have as many retreats for his mind as he can, as many things to which it
can fly from itself. Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_ is a
valuable work. It is, perhaps, overloaded with quotation. But there is
great spirit and great power in what Burton says, when he writes from
his own mind.'
Next morning we visited Dr. Wetherell, Master of University College,
with whom Dr. Johnson conferred on the most advantageous mode of
disposing of the books printed at the Clarendon press, on which subject
his letter has been inserted in a former page. I often had occasion
to remark, Johnson loved business, loved to have his wisdom actually
operate on real life. Dr. Wetherell and I talked of him without reserve
in his own presence. WETHERELL. 'I would have given him a hundred
guineas if he would have written a preface to his _Political Tracts_,
by way of a Discourse on the British Constitution.' BOSWELL. 'Dr.
Johnson, though in his writings, and upon all occasions a great friend
to the constitution both in church and state, has never written
expressly in support of either. There is really a claim upon him for
both. I am sure he could give a volume of no great bulk upon each, which
would comprise all the substance, and with his spirit would effectually
maintain them. He should erect a fort on the confines of each.' I could
perceive that he was displeased with this dialogue. He burst out, 'Why
should _I_ be always writing?' I hoped he was conscious that the debt
was just, and meant to discharge it, though he disliked being dunned.
We then went to Pembroke College, and waited on his old friend Dr.
Adams, the master of it, whom I found to be a most polite, pleasing,
communicative man. Before his advancement to the headship of his
college, I had intended to go and visit him at Shrewsbury, where he was
rector of St. Chad's, in order to get from him what particulars he could
recollect of Johnson's academical life. He now obligingly gave me part
of that authentick information, which, with what I afterwards owed to
his kindness, will be found incorporated in its proper place in this
Dr. Adams had distinguished himself by an able answer to David Hume's
_Essay on Miracles_. He told me he had once dined in company with Hume
in London; that Hume shook hands with him, and said, 'You have
treated me much better than I deserve;' and that they exchanged visits.
I took the liberty to object to treating an infidel writer with smooth
civility. Where there is a controversy concerning a passage in a
classick authour, or concerning a question in antiquities, or any other
subject in which human happiness is not deeply interested, a man may
treat his antagonist with politeness and even respect. But where the
controversy is concerning the truth of religion, it is of such vast
importance to him who maintains it, to obtain the victory, that the
person of an opponent ought not to be spared. If a man firmly believes
that religion is an invaluable treasure, he will consider a writer
who endeavours to deprive mankind of it as a _robber_; he will look upon
him as _odious_, though the infidel might think himself in the right. A
robber who reasons as the gang do in the _Beggar's Opera_, who call
themselves _practical_ philosophers, and may have as much sincerity
as pernicious _speculative_ philosophers, is not the less an object of
just indignation. An abandoned profligate may think that it is not wrong
to debauch my wife, but shall I, therefore, not detest him? And if I
catch him in making an attempt, shall I treat him with politeness? No, I
will kick him down stairs, or run him through the body; that is, if I
really love my wife, or have a true rational notion of honour. An
infidel then shall not be treated handsomely by a Christian, merely
because he endeavours to rob with ingenuity. I do declare, however, that
I am exceedingly unwilling to be provoked to anger, and could I be
persuaded that truth would not suffer from a cool moderation in its
defenders, I should wish to preserve good humour, at least, in every
controversy; nor, indeed, do I see why a man should lose his temper
while he does all he can to refute an opponent. I think ridicule may be
fairly used against an infidel; for instance, if he be an ugly fellow,
and yet absurdly vain of his person, we may contrast his appearance
with Cicero's beautiful image of Virtue, could she be seen. Johnson
coincided with me and said, 'When a man voluntarily engages in an
important controversy, he is to do all he can to lessen his antagonist,
because authority from personal respect has much weight with most
people, and often more than reasoning. If my antagonist writes bad
language, though that may not be essential to the question, I will
attack him for his bad language.' ADAMS. 'You would not jostle a
chimney-sweeper.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, if it were necessary to jostle him
Dr. Adams told us, that in some of the Colleges at Oxford, the fellows
had excluded the students from social intercourse with them in the
common room. JOHNSON. 'They are in the right, Sir: there can be no
real conversation, no fair exertion of mind amongst them, if the young
men are by; for a man who has a character does not choose to stake it in
their presence.' BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, may there not be very good
conversation without a contest for superiority?' JOHNSON. 'No animated
conversation, Sir, for it cannot be but one or other will come off
superiour. I do not mean that the victor must have the better of the
argument, for he may take the weak side; but his superiority of parts
and knowledge will necessarily appear: and he to whom he thus shews
himself superiour is lessened in the eyes of the young men. You know
it was said, "_Mallem cum Scaligero errare quam cum Clavio recte
sapere_." In the same manner take Bentley's and Jason de Nores'
Comments upon Horace, you will admire Bentley more when wrong, than
Jason when right.'
We walked with Dr. Adams into the master's garden, and into the common
room. JOHNSON, (after a reverie of meditation,) 'Ay! Here I used to play
at draughts with Phil. Jones and Fludyer. Jones loved beer, and did
not get very forward in the church. Fludyer turned out a scoundrel, a
Whig, and said he was ashamed of having been bred at Oxford. He had a
living at Putney, and got under the eye of some retainers to the court
at that time, and so became a violent Whig: but he had been a scoundrel
all along to be sure.' BOSWELL. 'Was he a scoundrel, Sir, in any other
way than that of being a political scoundrel? Did he cheat at draughts?'
JOHNSON. 'Sir, we never played for _money_.'
He then carried me to visit Dr. Bentham, Canon of Christ-Church, and
Divinity Professor, with whose learned and lively conversation we were
much pleased. He gave us an invitation to dinner, which Dr. Johnson told
me was a high honour. 'Sir, it is a great thing to dine with the Canons
of Christ-Church.' We could not accept his invitation, as we were
engaged to dine at University College. We had an excellent dinner there,
with the Master and Fellows, it being St. Cuthbert's day, which is kept
by them as a festival, as he was a saint of Durham, with which this
college is much connected.
We drank tea with Dr. Home, late President of Magdalen College, and
Bishop of Norwich, of whose abilities, in different respects, the
publick has had eminent proofs, and the esteem annexed to whose
character was increased by knowing him personally. He had talked of
publishing an edition of Walton's _Lives_, but had laid aside that
design, upon Dr. Johnson's telling him, from mistake, that Lord Hailes
intended to do it. I had wished to negociate between Lord Hailes and
him, that one or other should perform so good a work. JOHNSON. 'In order
to do it well, it will be necessary to collect all the editions of
Walton's _Lives_. By way of adapting the book to the taste of the
present age, they have, in a later edition, left out a vision which he
relates Dr. Donne had, but it should be restored; and there should be
a critical catalogue given of the works of the different persons whose
lives were written by Walton, and therefore their works must be
carefully read by the editor.'
We then went to Trinity College, where he introduced me to Mr. Thomas
Warton, with whom we passed a part of the evening. We talked of
biography.--JOHNSON. 'It is rarely well executed. They only who live
with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and
discrimination; and few people who have lived with a man know what to
remark about him. The chaplain of a late Bishop, whom I was to assist
in writing some memoirs of his Lordship, could tell me scarcely any
I said, Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he had been so
much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merit
had raised himself from the station of a footman. Mr. Warton said, he
had published a little volume under the title of _The Muse in Livery_
. JOHNSON. 'I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a
man who should write his life: yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that
his original low condition should be recollected. When Lord Lyttelton's
_Dialogues of the Dead_ came out, one of which is between Apicius, an
ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me,
"I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman."'
Biography led us to speak of Dr. John Campbell, who had written a
considerable part of the _Biographia Britannica_. Johnson, though he
valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so much in his
great work, _A Political Survey of Great Britain_, as the world had been
taught to expect; and had said to me, that he believed Campbell's
disappointment, on account of the bad success of that work, had killed
him. He this evening observed of it, 'That work was his death.' Mr.
Warton, not adverting to his meaning, answered, 'I believe so; from the
great attention he bestowed on it.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, he died of
_want_ of attention, if he died at all by that book.'
We talked of a work much in vogue at that time, written in a very
mellifluous style, but which, under pretext of another subject,
contained much artful infidelity. I said it was not fair to attack us
thus unexpectedly; he should have warned us of our danger, before we
entered his garden of flowery eloquence, by advertising, 'Spring guns
and men-traps set here.' The authour had been an Oxonian, and was
remembered there for having 'turned Papist.' I observed, that as he had
changed several times--from the Church of England to the Church of
Rome,--from the Church of Rome to infidelity,--I did not despair yet of
seeing him a methodist preacher. JOHNSON, (laughing.) 'It is said, that
his range has been more extensive, and that he has once been
Mahometan. However, now that he has published his infidelity, he will
probably persist in it.' BOSWELL. 'I am not quite sure of that, Sir.'
I mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his _Christian Hero_,
with the avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life,
yet, that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable. JOHNSON.
'Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices.'
Mr. Warton, being engaged, could not sup with us at our inn; we had
therefore another evening by ourselves. I asked Johnson, whether a
man's being forward to make himself known to eminent people, and
seeing as much of life, and getting as much information as he could in
every way, was not yet lessening himself by his forwardness. JOHNSON.
'No, Sir; a man always makes himself greater as he increases his
I censured some ludicrous fantastick dialogues between two coach-horses
and other such stuff, which Baretti had lately published. He joined
with me, and said, 'Nothing odd will do long. _Tristram Shandy_ did not
last.' I expressed a desire to be acquainted with a lady who had been
much talked of, and universally celebrated for extraordinary address and
insinuation. JOHNSON. 'Never believe extraordinary characters which
you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exaggerated. You do
not see one man shoot a great deal higher than another.' I mentioned Mr.
Burke. JOHNSON. 'Yes; Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind
is perpetual.' It is very pleasing to me to record, that Johnson's
high estimation of the talents of this gentleman was uniform from their
early acquaintance. Sir Joshua Reynolds informs me, that when Mr. Burke
was first elected a member of Parliament, and Sir John Hawkins expressed
a wonder at his attaining a seat, Johnson said, 'Now we who know Mr.
Burke, know, that he will be one of the first men in this country.'
And once, when Johnson was ill, and unable to exert himself as much as
usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said, 'That
fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now it would kill
me.' So much was he accustomed to consider conversation as a
contest, and such was his notion of Burke as an opponent.
Next morning, Thursday, March 31, we set out in a post-chaise to pursue
our ramble. It was a delightful day, and we rode through Blenheim park.
When I looked at the magnificent bridge built by John Duke of
Marlborough, over a small rivulet, and recollected the Epigram made upon
'The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
The stream, an emblem of his bounty flows:'
and saw that now, by the genius of Brown, a magnificent body of water
was collected, I said, 'They have _drowned_ the Epigram.' I observed to
him, while in the midst of the noble scene around us, 'You and I, Sir,
have, I think, seen together the extremes of what can be seen in
Britain:--the wild rough island of Mull, and Blenheim park.'
We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel-house, where he expatiated on the
felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the
French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. 'There is no
private house, (said he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well,
as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good
things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much
desire that every body should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot
be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of
the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to
be agreeable to him: and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as
freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own.
Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are
sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you
give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No
servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are
incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they
please. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.'
He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines:--
'Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.'
My illustrious friend, I thought, did not sufficiently admire
Shenstone. That ingenious and elegant gentleman's opinion of Johnson
appears in one of his letters to Mr. Graves, dated Feb. 9, 1760. 'I
have lately been reading one or two volumes of _The Rambler_; who,
excepting against some few hardnesses in his manner, and the want of
more examples to enliven, is one of the most nervous, most perspicuous,
most concise, [and] most harmonious prose writers I know. A learned
diction improves by time.'
In the afternoon, as we were driven rapidly along in the post-chaise, he
said to me 'Life has not many things better than this.'
We stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank tea and coffee; and it
pleased me to be with him upon the classick ground of Shakspeare's
He spoke slightingly of Dyer's _Fleece_.--'The subject, Sir, cannot
be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets?
Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that _excellent_
poem, _The Fleece_.' Having talked of Grainger's _Sugar-Cane_, I
mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me, that this poem, when read
in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits
burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a
new paragraph thus:--
'Now, Muse, let's sing of _rats_'
And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily
overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally
_mice_, and had been altered to _rats_, as more dignified.
This passage does not appear in the printed work. Dr. Grainger, or some
of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing
even _Rats_ in a grave poem, might be liable to banter. He, however,
could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a
still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as
it now stands:
'Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race
A countless clan despoil the lowland cane.'
Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do
any good that was in his power. His translation of _Tibullus_, he
thought, was very well done; but _The Sugar-Cane_, a poem, did not
please him; for, he exclaimed, 'What could he make of a sugar-cane?
One might as well write the "Parsley-bed, a Poem;" or "The
Cabbage-garden, a Poem."' BOSWELL. 'You must then _pickle_ your cabbage
with the _sal atticum_.' JOHNSON. 'You know there is already _The
Hop-Garden_, a Poem: and, I think, one could say a great deal about
cabbage. The poem might begin with the advantages of civilised society
over a rude state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till
Oliver Cromwell's soldiers introduced them; and one might thus shew
how arts are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms.' He
seemed to be much diverted with the fertility of his own fancy.
I told him, that I heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf
in Great-Britain. JOHNSON. 'The wolf, Sir! why the wolf? Why does he not
write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the
beaver. Or why does he not write of the grey rat, the Hanover rat, as it
is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the
time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see _The History
of the Grey Rat, by Thomas Percy, D.D., Chaplain in Ordinary to His
Majesty_,' (laughing immoderately). BOSWELL. 'I am afraid a court
chaplain could not decently write of the grey rat.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he
need not give it the name of the Hanover rat.' Thus could he indulge a
luxuriant sportive imagination, when talking of a friend whom he loved
He mentioned to me the singular history of an ingenious acquaintance.
'He had practised physick in various situations with no great emolument.
A West-India gentleman, whom he delighted by his conversation, gave him
a bond for a handsome annuity during his life, on the condition of his
accompanying him to the West-Indies, and living with him there for two
years. He accordingly embarked with the gentleman; but upon the voyage
fell in love with a young woman who happened to be one of the
passengers, and married the wench. From the imprudence of his
disposition he quarrelled with the gentleman, and declared he would have
no connection with him. So he forfeited the annuity. He settled as a
physician in one of the Leeward Islands. A man was sent out to him
merely to compound his medicines. This fellow set up as a rival to him
in his practice of physick, and got so much the better of him in the
opinion of the people of the island that he carried away all the
business, upon which he returned to England, and soon after died.'
On Friday, March 22, having set out early from Henley, where we had
lain the preceding night, we arrived at Birmingham about nine o'clock,
and, after breakfast, went to call on his old schoolfellow Mr.
Hector. A very stupid maid, who opened the door, told us, that 'her
master was gone out; he was gone to the country; she could not tell when
he would return.' In short, she gave us a miserable reception; and
Johnson observed, 'She would have behaved no better to people who wanted
him in the way of his profession.' He said to her, 'My name is Johnson;
tell him I called. Will you remember the name?' She answered with
rustick simplicity, in the Warwickshire pronunciation, 'I don't
understand you, Sir.'--'Blockhead, (said he,) I'll write.' I never heard
the word _blockhead_ applied to a woman before, though I do not see why
it should not, when there is evident occasion for it. He, however,
made another attempt to make her understand him, and roared loud in her
ear, '_Johnson_', and then she catched the sound.
We next called on Mr. Lloyd, one of the people called Quakers. He too
was not at home; but Mrs. Lloyd was, and received us courteously, and
asked us to dinner. Johnson said to me, 'After the uncertainty of all
human things at Hector's, this invitation came very well.' We walked
about the town, and he was pleased to see it increasing.
I talked of legitimation by subsequent marriage, which obtained in the
Roman law, and still obtains in the law of Scotland. JOHNSON. 'I think
it a bad thing; because the chastity of women being of the utmost
importance, as all property depends upon it, they who forfeit it should
not have any possibility of being restored to good character; nor should
the children, by an illicit connection, attain the full right of lawful
children, by the posteriour consent of the offending parties.' His
opinion upon this subject deserves consideration. Upon his principle
there may, at times, be a hardship, and seemingly a strange one, upon
individuals; but the general good of society is better secured. And,
after all, it is unreasonable in an individual to repine that he has not
the advantage of a state which is made different from his own, by the
social institution under which he is born. A woman does not complain
that her brother, who is younger than her, gets their common father's
estate. Why then should a natural son complain that a younger brother,
by the same parents lawfully begotten, gets it? The operation of law is
similar in both cases. Besides, an illegitimate son, who has a younger
legitimate brother by the same father and mother, has no stronger claim
to the father's estate, than if that legitimate brother had only the
same father, from whom alone the estate descends.
Mr. Lloyd joined us in the street; and in a little while we met _Friend
Hector_, as Mr. Lloyd called him. It gave me pleasure to observe the joy
which Johnson and he expressed on seeing each other again. Mr. Lloyd and
I left them together, while he obligingly shewed me some of the
manufactures of this very curious assemblage of artificers. We all met
at dinner at Mr. Lloyd's, where we were entertained with great
hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd had been married the same year with
their Majesties, and like them, had been blessed with a numerous family
of fine children, their numbers being exactly the same. Johnson said,
'Marriage is the best state for a man in general; and every man is a
worse man, in proportion as he is unfit for the married state.'
I have always loved the simplicity of manners, and the
spiritual-mindedness of the Quakers; and talking with Mr. Lloyd, I
observed, that the essential part of religion was piety, a devout
intercourse with the Divinity; and that many a man was a Quaker without
As Dr. Johnson had said to me in the morning, while we walked together,
that he liked individuals among the Quakers, but not the sect; when we
were at Mr. Lloyd's, I kept clear of introducing any questions
concerning the peculiarities of their faith. But I having asked to look
at Baskerville's edition of _Barclay's Apology_, Johnson laid hold of
it; and the chapter on baptism happening to open, Johnson remarked, 'He
says there is neither precept nor practice for baptism, in the
scriptures; that is false.' Here he was the aggressor, by no means in a
gentle manner; and the good Quakers had the advantage of him; for he had
read negligently, and had not observed that Barclay speaks of _infant_
baptism; which they calmly made him perceive. Mr. Lloyd, however, was
in as great a mistake; for when insisting that the rite of baptism by
water was to cease, when the _spiritual_ administration of CHRIST began,
he maintained, that John the Baptist said, '_My baptism_ shall decrease,
but _his_ shall increase.' Whereas the words are, '_He_ must increase,
but _I_ must decrease.'
One of them having objected to the 'observance of days, and months, and
years,' Johnson answered, 'The Church does not superstitiously observe
days, merely as days, but as memorials of important facts. Christmas
might be kept as well upon one day of the year as another; but there
should be a stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour,
because there is danger that what may be done on any day, will be
He said to me at another time, 'Sir, the holidays observed by our church
are of great use in religion.' There can be no doubt of this, in a
limited sense, I mean if the number of such consecrated portions of time
be not too extensive. The excellent Mr. Nelson's _Festivals and
Fasts_, which has, I understand, the greatest sale of any book ever
printed in England, except the Bible, is a most valuable help to
devotion; and in addition to it I would recommend two sermons on the
same subject, by Mr. Pott, Archdeacon of St. Alban's, equally
distinguished for piety and elegance. I am sorry to have it to say, that
Scotland is the only Christian country, Catholick or Protestant, where
the great events of our religion are not solemnly commemorated by its
ecclesiastical establishment, on days set apart for the purpose.
Mr. Hector was so good as to accompany me to see the great works of Mr.
Bolton, at a place which he has called Soho, about two miles from
Birmingham, which the very ingenious proprietor shewed me himself to the
best advantage. I wish Johnson had been with us: for it was a scene
which I should have been glad to contemplate by his light. The
vastness and the contrivance of some of the machinery would have
'matched his mighty mind.' I shall never forget Mr. Bolton's expression
to me: 'I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have--POWER.' He
had about seven hundred people at work. I contemplated him as an _iron
chieftain_, and he seemed to be a father to his tribe. One of them came
to him, complaining grievously of his landlord for having distrained his
goods.' 'Your landlord is in the right, Smith, (said Bolton). But I'll
tell you what: find you a friend who will lay down one half of your
rent, and I'll lay down the other half; and you shall have your goods
From Mr. Hector I now learnt many particulars of Dr. Johnson's early
life, which, with others that he gave me at different times since, have
contributed to the formation of this work.
Dr. Johnson said to me in the morning, 'You will see, Sir, at Mr.
Hector's, his sister, Mrs. Careless, a clergyman's widow. She was the
first woman with whom I was in love. It dropt out of my head
imperceptibly; but she and I shall always have a kindness for each
other.' He laughed at the notion that a man never can be really in love
but once, and considered it as a mere romantick fancy.
On our return from Mr. Bolton's, Mr. Hector took me to his house, where
we found Johnson sitting placidly at tea, with his _first love_; who,
though now advanced in years, was a genteel woman, very agreeable, and
Johnson lamented to Mr. Hector the state of one of their school-fellows,
Mr. Charles Congreve, a clergyman, which he thus described: 'He
obtained, I believe, considerable preferment in Ireland, but now lives
in London, quite as a valetudinarian, afraid to go into any house but
his own. He takes a short airing in his post-chaise every day. He has an
elderly woman, whom he calls cousin, who lives with him, and jogs his
elbow when his glass has stood too long empty, and encourages him in
drinking, in which he is very willing to be encouraged; not that he gets
drunk, for he is a very pious man, but he is always muddy. He
confesses to one bottle of port every day, and he probably drinks more.
He is quite unsocial; his conversation is quite monosyllabical: and
when, at my last visit, I asked him what a clock it was? that signal of
my departure had so pleasing an effect on him, that he sprung up to look
at his watch, like a greyhound bounding at a hare.' When Johnson took
leave of Mr. Hector, he said, 'Don't grow like Congreve; nor let me grow
like him, when you are near me.'
When he again talked of Mrs. Careless to-night, he seemed to have had
his affection revived; for he said, 'If I had married her, it might have
been as happy for me.' BOSWELL. 'Pray, Sir, do you not suppose that
there are fifty women in the world, with any one of whom a man may be as
happy, as with any one woman in particular.' JOHNSON. 'Ay, Sir, fifty
thousand.' BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, you are not of opinion with some who
imagine that certain men and certain women are made for each other; and
that they cannot be happy if they miss their counterparts.' JOHNSON. 'To
be sure not, Sir. I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and
often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due
consideration of characters and circumstances, without the parties
having any choice in the matter.'
I wished to have staid at Birmingham to-night, to have talked more with
Mr. Hector; but my friend was impatient to reach his native city; so we
drove on that stage in the dark, and were long pensive and silent. When
we came within the focus of the Lichfield lamps, 'Now (said he,) we are
getting out of a state of death.' We put up at the Three Crowns, not one
of the great inns, but a good old fashioned one, which was kept by Mr.
Wilkins, and was the very next house to that in which Johnson was born
and brought up, and which was still his own property. We had a
comfortable supper, and got into high spirits. I felt all my Toryism
glow in this old capital of Staffordshire. I could have offered incense
_genio loci_; and I indulged in libations of that ale, which Boniface,
in _The Beaux Stratagem_, recommends with such an eloquent jollity.
Next morning he introduced me to Mrs. Lucy Porter, his step-daughter.
She was now an old maid, with much simplicity of manner. She had never
been in London. Her brother, a Captain in the navy, had left her a
fortune of ten thousand pounds; about a third of which she had laid out
in building a stately house, and making a handsome garden, in an
elevated situation in Lichfield. Johnson, when here by himself, used to
live at her house. She reverenced him, and he had a parental tenderness
We then visited Mr. Peter Garrick, who had that morning received a
letter from his brother David, announcing our coming to Lichfield. He
was engaged to dinner, but asked us to tea, and to sleep at his house.
Johnson, however, would not quit his old acquaintance Wilkins, of the
Three Crowns. The family likeness of the Garricks was very striking;
and Johnson thought that David's vivacity was not so peculiar to himself
as was supposed. 'Sir, (said he,) I don't know but if Peter had
cultivated all the arts of gaiety as much as David has done, he might
have been as brisk and lively. Depend upon it, Sir, vivacity is much an
art, and depends greatly on habit.' I believe there is a good deal of
truth in this, notwithstanding a ludicrous story told me by a lady
abroad, of a heavy German baron, who had lived much with the young
English at Geneva, and was ambitious to be as lively as they; with which
view, he, with assiduous exertion, was jumping over the tables and
chairs in his lodgings; and when the people of the house ran in and
asked, with surprize, what was the matter, he answered, '_Sh' apprens
We dined at our inn, and had with us a Mr. Jackson, one of Johnson's
schoolfellows, whom he treated with much kindness, though he seemed to
be a low man, dull and untaught. He had a coarse grey coat, black
waistcoat, greasy leather breeches, and a yellow uncurled wig; and his
countenance had the ruddiness which betokens one who is in no haste to
'leave his can.' He drank only ale. He had tried to be a cutler at
Birmingham, but had not succeeded; and now he lived poorly at home, and
had some scheme of dressing leather in a better manner than common; to
his indistinct account of which, Dr. Johnson listened with patient
attention, that he might assist him with his advice. Here was an
instance of genuine humanity and real kindness in this great man, who
has been most unjustly represented as altogether harsh and destitute of
tenderness. A thousand such instances might have been recorded in the
course of his long life; though that his temper was warm and hasty, and
his manner often rough, cannot be denied.
I saw here, for the first time, _oat ale_; and oat cakes not hard as in
Scotland, but soft like a Yorkshire cake, were served at breakfast. It
was pleasant to me to find, that _Oats_, the _food of horses_, were
so much used as the _food of the people_ in Dr. Johnson's own town. He
expatiated in praise of Lichfield and its inhabitants, who, he said,
were 'the most sober, decent people in England, the genteelest in
proportion to their wealth, and spoke the purest English.' I doubted
as to the last article of this eulogy: for they had several provincial
sounds; as _there_, pronounced like _fear_, instead of like _fair; once_
pronounced _woonse_, instead of _wunse_, or _wonse_. Johnson himself
never got entirely free of those provincial accents. Garrick
sometimes used to take him off, squeezing a lemon into a punch-bowl,
with uncouth gesticulations, looking round the company, and calling out,
'Who's for _poonsh_?'
Very little business appeared to be going forward in Lichfield. I found
however two strange manufactures for so inland a place, sail-cloth and
streamers for ships; and I observed them making some saddle-cloths, and
dressing sheepskins: but upon the whole, the busy hand of industry
seemed to be quite slackened. 'Surely, Sir, (said I,) you are an idle
set of people.' 'Sir, (said Johnson,) we are a city of philosophers, we
work with our heads, and make the boobies of Birmingham work for us
with their hands.'
There was at this time a company of players performing at Lichfield. The
manager, Mr. Stanton, sent his compliments, and begged leave to wait on
Dr. Johnson. Johnson received him very courteously, and he drank a glass
of wine with us. He was a plain decent well-behaved man, and expressed
his gratitude to Dr. Johnson for having once got him permission from Dr.
Taylor at Ashbourne to play there upon moderate terms. Garrick's name
was soon introduced. JOHNSON. 'Garrick's conversation is gay and
grotesque. It is a dish of all sorts, but all good things. There is no
solid meat in it: there is a want of sentiment in it. Not but that he
has sentiment sometimes, and sentiment, too, very powerful and very
pleasing: but it has not its full proportion in his conversation.'
When we were by ourselves he told me, 'Forty years ago, Sir, I was in
love with an actress here, Mrs. Emmet, who acted Flora, in _Hob in the
Well_.' What merit this lady had as an actress, or what was her
figure, or her manner, I have not been informed: but, if we may believe
Mr. Garrick, his old master's taste in theatrical merit was by no means
refined; he was not an _elegans formarum spectator_. Garrick
used to tell, that Johnson said of an actor, who played Sir Harry Wildair
 at Lichfield, 'There is a courtly vivacity about the fellow;' when
in fact, according to Garrick's account, 'he was the most vulgar ruffian
that ever went upon _boards_.'
We had promised Mr. Stanton to be at his theatre on Monday. Dr. Johnson
jocularly proposed me to write a Prologue for the occasion: 'A Prologue,
by James Boswell, Esq. from the Hebrides.' I was really inclined to take
the hint. Methought, 'Prologue, spoken before Dr. Samuel Johnson, at
Lichfield, 1776;' would have sounded as well as, 'Prologue, spoken
before the Duke of York, at Oxford,' in Charles the Second's time. Much
might have been said of what Lichfield had done for Shakspeare, by
producing Johnson and Garrick. But I found he was averse to it.
We went and viewed the museum of Mr. Richard Green, apothecary here, who
told me he was proud of being a relation of Dr. Johnson's. It was,
truely, a wonderful collection, both of antiquities and natural
curiosities, and ingenious works of art. He had all the articles
accurately arranged, with their names upon labels, printed at his own
little press; and on the staircase leading to it was a board, with the
names of contributors marked in gold letters. A printed catalogue of the
collection was to be had at a bookseller's. Johnson expressed his
admiration of the activity and diligence and good fortune of Mr. Green,
in getting together, in his situation, so great a variety of things; and
Mr. Green told me that Johnson once said to him, 'Sir, I should as soon
have thought of building a man of war, as of collecting such a museum.'
Mr. Green's obliging alacrity in shewing it was very pleasing. His
engraved portrait, with which he has favoured me, has a motto truely
characteristical of his disposition, '_Nemo sibi vivat_.'
A physician being mentioned who had lost his practice, because his
whimsically changing his religion had made people distrustful of him, I
maintained that this was unreasonable, as religion is unconnected with
medical skill. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is not unreasonable; for when people
see a man absurd in what they understand, they may conclude the same of
him in what they do not understand. If a physician were to take to
eating of horse-flesh, nobody would employ him; though one may eat
horse-flesh, and be a very skilful physician. If a man were educated in
an absurd religion, his continuing to profess it would not hurt him,
though his changing to it would.'
We drank tea and coffee at Mr. Peter Garrick's, where was Mrs. Aston,
one of the maiden sisters of Mrs. Walmsley, wife of Johnson's first
friend, and sister also of the lady of whom Johnson used to speak
with the warmest admiration, by the name of Molly Aston, who was
afterwards married to Captain Brodie of the navy.
On Sunday, March 24, we breakfasted with Mrs. Cobb, a widow lady, who
lived in an agreeable sequestered place close by the town, called the
Friary, it having been formerly a religious house. She and her niece,
Miss Adey, were great admirers of Dr. Johnson; and he behaved to them
with a kindness and easy pleasantry, such as we see between old and
intimate acquaintance. He accompanied Mrs. Cobb to St. Mary's church,
and I went to the cathedral, where I was very much delighted with the
musick, finding it to be peculiarly solemn and accordant with the words
of the service.
We dined at Mr. Peter Garrick's, who was in a very lively humour, and
verified Johnson's saying, that if he had cultivated gaiety as much as
his brother David, he might have equally excelled in it. He was to-day
quite a London narrator, telling us a variety of anecdotes with that
earnestness and attempt at mimicry which we usually find in the wits of
the metropolis. Dr. Johnson went with me to the cathedral in the
afternoon. It was grand and pleasing to contemplate this illustrious
writer, now full of fame, worshipping in the 'solemn temple' of his
I returned to tea and coffee at Mr. Peter Garrick's, and then found Dr.
Johnson at the Reverend Mr. Seward's, Canon Residentiary, who
inhabited the Bishop's palace, in which Mr. Walmsley lived, and which
had been the scene of many happy hours in Johnson's early life. Mr.
Seward had, with ecclesiastical hospitality and politeness, asked me in
the morning, merely as a stranger, to dine with him; and in the
afternoon, when I was introduced to him, he asked Dr. Johnson and me to
spend the evening and sup with him. He was a genteel well-bred dignified
clergyman, had travelled with Lord Charles Fitzroy, uncle of the present
Duke of Grafton, who died when abroad, and he had lived much in the
great world. He was an ingenious and literary man, had published an
edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, and written verses in Dodsley's
collection. His lady was the daughter of Mr. Hunter, Johnson's first
schoolmaster. And now, for the first time, I had the pleasure of seeing
his celebrated daughter, Miss Anna Seward, to whom I have since been
indebted for many civilities, as well as some obliging communications
Mr. Seward mentioned to us the observations which he had made upon the
strata of earth in volcanos, from which it appeared, that they were so
very different in depth at different periods, that no calculation
whatever could be made as to the time required for their formation. This
fully refuted an antimosaical remark introduced into Captain Brydone's
entertaining tour, I hope heedlessly, from a kind of vanity which is too
common in those who have not sufficiently studied the most important of
all subjects. Dr. Johnson, indeed, had said before, independent of this
observation, 'Shall all the accumulated evidence of the history of the
world;--shall the authority of what is unquestionably the most ancient
writing, be overturned by an uncertain remark such as this?'
On Monday, March 25, we breakfasted at Mrs. Lucy Porter's. Johnson had
sent an express to Dr. Taylor's, acquainting him of our being at
Lichfield, and Taylor had returned an answer that his postchaise
should come for us this day. While we sat at breakfast, Dr. Johnson
received a letter by the post, which seemed to agitate him very much.
When he had read it, he exclaimed, 'One of the most dreadful things that
has happened in my time.' The phrase _my time_, like the word _age_, is
usually understood to refer to an event of a publick or general nature.
I imagined something like an assassination of the King--like a gunpowder
plot carried into execution--or like another fire of London. When asked,
'What is it, Sir?' he answered, 'Mr. Thrale has lost his only son!'
This was, no doubt, a very great affliction to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale,
which their friends would consider accordingly; but from the manner in
which the intelligence of it was communicated by Johnson, it appeared
for the moment to be comparatively small. I, however, soon felt a
sincere concern, and was curious to observe, how Dr. Johnson would be
affected. He said, 'This is a total extinction to their family, as much
as if they were sold into captivity.' Upon my mentioning that Mr. Thrale
had daughters, who might inherit his wealth;--'Daughters, (said Johnson,
warmly,) he'll no more value his daughters than--'I was going to
speak.--'Sir, (said he,) don't you know how you yourself think? Sir, he
wishes to propagate his name.' In short, I saw male succession strong
in his mind, even where there was no name, no family of any long
standing. I said, it was lucky he was not present when this misfortune
happened. JOHNSON. 'It is lucky for _me_. People in distress never think
that you feel enough.' BOSWELL. 'And Sir, they will have the hope of
seeing you, which will be a relief in the mean time; and when you get to
them, the pain will be so far abated, that they will be capable of being
consoled by you, which, in the first violence of it, I believe, would
not be the case.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; violent pain of mind, like violent
pain of body, _must_ be severely felt.' BOSWELL. 'I own, Sir, I have not
so much feeling for the distress of others, as some people have, or
pretend to have: but I know this, that I would do all in my power to
relieve them.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is affectation to pretend to feel the
distress of others, as much as they do themselves. It is equally so, as
if one should pretend to feel as much pain while a friend's leg is
cutting off, as he does. No, Sir; you have expressed the rational and
just nature of sympathy. I would have gone to the extremity of the earth
to have preserved this boy.'
He was soon quite calm. The letter was from Mr. Thrale's clerk, and
concluded, 'I need not say how much they wish to see you in London.' He
said, 'We shall hasten back from Taylor's.'
Mrs. Lucy Porter and some other ladies of the place talked a great deal
of him when he was out of the room, not only with veneration but
affection. It pleased me to find that he was so much _beloved_ in his
Mrs. Aston, whom I had seen the preceding night, and her sister, Mrs.
Gastrel, a widow lady, had each a house and garden, and pleasure-ground,
prettily situated upon Stowhill, a gentle eminence, adjoining to
Lichfield. Johnson walked away to dinner there, leaving me by myself
without any apology; I wondered at this want of that facility of
manners, from which a man has no difficulty in carrying a friend to a
house where he is intimate; I felt it very unpleasant to be thus left in
solitude in a country town, where I was an entire stranger, and began to
think myself unkindly deserted: but I was soon relieved, and convinced
that my friend, instead of being deficient in delicacy, had conducted
the matter with perfect propriety, for I received the following note in
his handwriting: 'Mrs. Gastrel, at the lower house on Stowhill, desires
Mr. Boswell's company to dinner at two.' I accepted of the invitation,
and had here another proof how amiable his character was in the opinion
of those who knew him best. I was not informed, till afterwards, that
Mrs. Gastrel's husband was the clergyman who, while he lived at
Stratford upon Avon, where he was proprietor of Shakspeare's garden,
with Gothick barbarity cut down his mulberry-tree, and, as Dr.
Johnson told me, did it to vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason
to believe, on the same authority, participated in the guilt of what
the enthusiasts for our immortal bard deem almost a species of
After dinner Dr. Johnson wrote a letter to Mrs. Thrale on the death of
her son. I said it would be very distressing to Thrale, but she would
soon forget it, as she had so many things to think of. JOHNSON. 'No,
Sir, Thrale will forget it first. _She_ has many things that she _may_
think of. _He_ has many things that he _must_ think of.' This was a
very just remark upon the different effect of those light pursuits which
occupy a vacant and easy mind, and those serious engagements which
arrest attention, and keep us from brooding over grief.
He observed of Lord Bute, 'It was said of Augustus, that it would have
been better for Rome that he had never been born, or had never died. So
it would have been better for this nation if Lord Bute had never been
minister, or had never resigned.'
In the evening we went to the Town-hall, which was converted into a
temporary theatre, and saw _Theodosius_, with _The Stratford Jubilee_. I
was happy to see Dr. Johnson sitting in a conspicuous part of the pit,
and receiving affectionate homage from all his acquaintance. We were
quite gay and merry. I afterwards mentioned to him that I condemned
myself for being so, when poor Mr. and Mrs. Thrale were in such
distress. JOHNSON. 'You are wrong, Sir; twenty years hence Mr. and Mrs.
Thrale will not suffer much pain from the death of their son. Now, Sir,
you are to consider, that distance of place, as well as distance of
time, operates upon the human feelings. I would not have you be gay in
the presence of the distressed, because it would shock them; but you may
be gay at a distance. Pain for the loss of a friend, or of a relation
whom we love, is occasioned by the want which we feel. In time the
vacuity is filled with something else; or sometimes the vacuity closes
up of itself.'
Mr. Seward and Mr. Pearson, another clergyman here, supt with us at our
inn, and after they left us, we sat up late as we used to do in London.
Here I shall record some fragments of my friend's conversation during
'Marriage, Sir, is much more necessary to a man than to a woman; for he
is much less able to supply himself with domestick comforts. You will
recollect my saying to some ladies the other day, that I had often
wondered why young women should marry, as they have so much more
freedom, and so much more attention paid to them while unmarried, than
when married. I indeed did not mention the _strong_ reason for their
marrying--the _mechanical_ reason.' BOSWELL. 'Why that _is_ a strong
one. But does not imagination make it much more important than it is in
reality? Is it not, to a certain degree, a delusion in us as well as in
women?' JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir; but it is a delusion that is always
beginning again.' BOSWELL. 'I don't know but there is upon the whole
more misery than happiness produced by that passion.' JOHNSON. 'I don't
think so, Sir.'
'Never speak of a man in his own presence. It is always indelicate, and
may be offensive.'
'Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. It is
assuming a superiority, and it is particularly wrong to question a man
concerning himself. There may be parts of his former life which he may
not wish to be made known to other persons, or even brought to his own
'A man should be careful never to tell tales of himself to his own
disadvantage. People may be amused and laugh at the time, but they will
be remembered, and brought out against him upon some subsequent
'Much may be done if a man puts his whole mind to a particular object.
By doing so, Norton has made himself the great lawyer that he is
allowed to be.'
I mentioned an acquaintance of mine, a sectary, who was a very
religious man, who not only attended regularly on publick worship with
those of his communion, but made a particular study of the Scriptures,
and even wrote a commentary on some parts of them, yet was known to be
very licentious in indulging himself with women; maintaining that men
are to be saved by faith alone, and that the Christian religion had not
prescribed any fixed rule for the intercourse between the sexes.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, there is no trusting to that crazy piety.'
I observed that it was strange how well Scotchmen were known to one
another in their own country, though born in very distant counties; for
we do not find that the gentlemen of neighbouring counties in England
are mutually known to each other. Johnson, with his usual acuteness, at
once saw and explained the reason of this; 'Why, Sir, you have
Edinburgh, where the gentlemen from all your counties meet, and which is
not so large but they are all known. There is no such common place of
collection in England, except London, where from its great size and
diffusion, many of those who reside in contiguous counties of England,
may long remain unknown to each other.'
On Tuesday, March 26, there came for us an equipage properly suited to a
wealthy well-beneficed clergyman;--Dr. Taylor's large roomy post-chaise,
drawn by four stout plump horses, and driven by two steady jolly
postillions, which conveyed us to Ashbourne; where I found my friend's
schoolfellow living upon an establishment perfectly corresponding with
his substantial creditable equipage: his house, garden,
pleasure-grounds, table, in short every thing good, and no scantiness
appearing. Every man should form such a plan of living as he can execute
completely. Let him not draw an outline wider than he can fill up. I
have seen many skeletons of shew and magnificence which excite at once
ridicule and pity. Dr. Taylor had a good estate of his own, and good
preferment in the church, being a prebendary of Westminster, and
rector of Bosworth. He was a diligent justice of the peace, and presided
over the town of Ashbourne, to the inhabitants of which I was told he
was very liberal; and as a proof of this it was mentioned to me, he had
the preceding winter distributed two hundred pounds among such of them
as stood in need of his assistance. He had consequently a considerable
political interest in the county of Derby, which he employed to support
the Devonshire family; for though the schoolfellow and friend of
Johnson, he was a Whig. I could not perceive in his character much
congeniality of any sort with that of Johnson, who, however, said to me,
'Sir, he has a very strong understanding.' His size, and figure, and
countenance, and manner, were that of a hearty English 'Squire, with the
parson super-induced: and I took particular notice of his upper servant,
Mr. Peters, a decent grave man, in purple clothes, and a large white
wig, like the butler or _major domo_ of a Bishop.
Dr. Johnson and Dr. Taylor met with great cordiality; and Johnson soon
gave him the same sad account of their school-fellow, Congreve, that he
had given to Mr. Hector; adding a remark of such moment to the
rational conduct of a man in the decline of life, that it deserves to be
imprinted upon every mind: 'There is nothing against which an old man
should be so much upon his guard as putting himself to nurse.'
Innumerable have been the melancholy instances of men once distinguished
for firmness, resolution, and spirit, who in their latter days have been
governed like children, by interested female artifice.
Dr. Taylor commended a physician who was known to him and Dr. Johnson,
and said, 'I fight many battles for him, as many people in the country
dislike him.' JOHNSON. 'But you should consider, Sir, that by every one
of your victories he is a loser; for, every man of whom you get the
better, will be very angry, and resolve not to employ him; whereas if
people get the better of you in argument about him, they'll think,
"We'll send for Dr. ---- nevertheless."' This was an observation deep
and sure in human nature.
Next day we talked of a book in which an eminent judge was arraigned
before the bar of the publick, as having pronounced an unjust decision
in a great cause. Dr. Johnson maintained that this publication would not
give any uneasiness to the judge. 'For (said he,) either he acted
honestly, or he meant to do injustice. If he acted honestly, his own
consciousness will protect him; if he meant to do injustice, he will be
glad to see the man who attacks him, so much vexed,'
Next day, as Dr. Johnson had acquainted Dr. Taylor of the reason for his
returning speedily to London, it was resolved that we should set out
after dinner. A few of Dr. Taylor's neighbours were his guests that day.
Dr. Johnson talked with approbation of one who had attained to the state
of the philosophical wise man, that is, to have no want of any thing.
'Then, Sir, (said I,) the savage is a wise man.' 'Sir, (said he,) I do
not mean simply being without,--but not having a want.' I maintained,
against this proposition, that it was better to have fine clothes, for
instance, than not to feel the want of them. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; fine
clothes are good only as they supply the want of other means of
procuring respect. Was Charles the Twelfth, think you, less respected
for his coarse blue coat and black stock? And you find the King of
Prussia dresses plain, because the dignity of his character is
sufficient.' I here brought myself into a scrape, for I heedlessly said,
'Would not _you_, Sir, be the better for velvet and embroidery?'
JOHNSON. 'Sir, you put an end to all argument when you introduce your
opponent himself. Have you no better manners? There is _your want_.' I
apologised by saying, I had mentioned him as an instance of one who
wanted as little as any man in the world, and yet, perhaps, might
receive some additional lustre from dress.
In the Bodleian is the following autograph record by Johnson of Good
Friday, March 28, Easter Sunday, March 30, and May 4, 1766, and the copy
of the record of Saturday, March 29. They belong to the series published
by the Rev. Mr. Strahan under the title of _Prayers and Meditations_,
but they are not included in it.
'Good Friday, March 28, 1766.--On the night before I used proper
Collects, and prayed when I arose in the morning. I had all the week an
awe upon me, not thinking on Passion week till I looked in the almanack.
I have wholly forborne M [? meat] and wines, except one glass on Sunday
'In the morning I rose, and drank very small tea without milk, and had
nothing more that day.
'This was the day on which Tetty died. I did not mingle much men [?
mention] of her with the devotions of this day, because it is dedicated
to more holy subjects. I mentioned her at church, and prayed once
solemnly at home. I was twice at church, and went through the prayers
without perturbation, but heard the sermons imperfectly. I came in both
times at the second lesson, not hearing the bell.
'When I came home I read the Psalms for the day, and one sermon in
Clark. Scruples distract me, but at church I had hopes to conquer them.
'I bore abstinence this day not well, being at night insupportably
heavy, but as fasting does not produce sleepyness, I had perhaps rested
ill the night before. I prayed in my study for the day, and prayed again
in my chamber. I went to bed very early--before eleven.
'After church I selected collects for the Sacraments.
'Finding myself upon recollection very ignorant of religion, I formed a
purpose of studying it.
'I went down and sat to tea, but was too heavy to converse.
'Saturday, 29.--I rose at the time now usual, not fully refreshed. Went
to tea. A sudden thought of restraint hindered me. I drank but one dish.
Took a purge for my health. Still uneasy. Prayed, and went to dinner.
Dined sparingly on fish [added in different ink] about four. Went to
Simpson. Was driven home by my physick. Drank tea, and am much
refreshed. I believe that if I had drank tea again yesterday, I had
escaped the heaviness of the evening. Fasting that produces inability is
no duty, but I was unwilling to do less than formerly.
'I had lived more abstemiously than is usual the whole week, and taken
physick twice, which together made the fast more uneasy.
'Thus much I have written medically, to show that he who can fast long
must have lived plentifully.
'Saturday, March 29, 1766.--I was yesterday very heavy. I do not feel
myself to-day so much impressed with awe of the approaching mystery. I
had this day a doubt, like Baxter, of my state, and found that my faith,
though weak, was yet faith. O God! strengthen it.
'Since the last reception of the sacrament I hope I have no otherwise
grown worse than as continuance in sin makes the sinner's condition more
'Since last New Year's Eve I have risen every morning by eight, at least
not after nine, which is more superiority over my habits than I have
ever before been able to obtain. Scruples still distress me. My
resolution, with the blessing of God, is to contend with them, and, if I
can, to conquer them.
'My resolutions are--
'To conquer scruples.
'To read the Bible this year.
'To try to rise more early.
'To study Divinity.
'To live methodically.
'To oppose idleness.
'To frequent Divine worship.
'Almighty and most merciful Father! before whom I now appear laden with
the sins of another year, suffer me yet again to call upon Thee for
pardon and peace.
'O God! grant me repentance, grant me reformation. Grant that I may be
no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed with vain terrors. Grant
that I may no longer linger in perplexity, nor waste in idleness that
life which Thou hast given and preserved. Grant that I may serve Thee in
firm faith and diligent endeavour, and that I may discharge the duties
of my calling with tranquillity and constancy. Take not, O God, Thy holy
Spirit from me: but grant that I may so direct my life by Thy holy laws,
as that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may pass by a holy and happy
death to a life of everlasting and unchangeable joy, for the sake of
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
'I went to bed (at) one or later; but did not sleep, tho' I knew not
'Easter Day, March 30, 1766.--I rose in the morning. Prayed. Took my
prayer book to tea; drank tea; planned my devotion for the church. I
think prayed again. Went to church, was early. Went through the prayers
with fixed attention. Could not hear the sermon. After sermon, applied
myself to devotion. Troubled with Baxter's scruple, which was quieted as
I returned home. It occurred to me that the scruple itself was its own
'I used the prayer against scruples in the foregoing page in the pew,
and commended (so far as it was lawful) Tetty, dear Tetty, in a prayer
by herself, then my other friends. What collects I do not exactly
remember. I gave a shilling. I then went towards the altar that I might
hear the service. The communicants were more than I ever saw. I kept
back; used again the foregoing prayer; again commended Tetty, and lifted
up my heart for the rest. I prayed in the collect for the fourteen S.
after Trinity for encrease of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and deliverance
from scruples; this deliverance was the chief subject of my prayers. O
God, hear me. I am now to try to conquer them. After reception I
repeated my petition, and again when I came home. My dinner made me a
little peevish; not much. After dinner I retired, and read in an hour
and a half the seven first chapters of St. Matthew in Greek. Glory be to
God. God grant me to proceed and improve, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
'I went to Evening Prayers, and was undisturbed. At church in the
morning it occurred to me to consider about example of good any of my
friends had set me. This is proper, in order to the thanks returned for
their good examples.
'My attainment of rising gives me comfort and hope. O God, for Jesus
Christ's sake, bless me. Amen.
'After church, before and after dinner, I read Rotheram on Faith.
'After evening prayer I retired, and wrote this account.
'I then repeated the prayer of the day, with collects, and my prayer for
night, and went down to supper at near ten.
'May 4,--66. I have read since the noon of Easter day the Gospels of St.
Matthew and St. Mark in Greek.
'I have read Xenophon's Cyropaidia.'
BODLEIAN LIBRARY. SELECT AUTOGRAPHS. (MONTAGU.)
* * * * *
Johnson's sentiments towards his fellow-subjects in America have never,
so far as I know, been rightly stated. It was not because they fought
for liberty that he had come to dislike them. A man who, 'bursting forth
with a generous indignation, had said:--"The Irish are in a most
unnatural state; for we see there the minority prevailing over the
majority"' (_ante_, ii. 255), was not likely to wish that our
plantations should be tyrannically governed. The man who, 'in company
with some very grave men at Oxford, gave as his toast, "Here's to the
next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies"' (_post_, iii.
200), was not likely to condemn insurrections in general. The key to his
feelings is found in his indignant cry, 'How is it that we hear the
loudest _yelps_ for liberty among the drivers of negroes?' (_Ib_) He
hated slavery as perhaps no man of his time hated it. While the Quakers,
who were almost the pioneers in the Anti-slavery cause, were still
slave-holders and slave-dealers, he lifted up his voice against it. So
early as 1740, when Washington was but a child of eight, he had
maintained 'the natural right of the negroes to liberty and
independence.' (_Works_, vi. 313.) In 1756 he described Jamaica as 'a
place of great wealth and dreadful wickedness, a den of tyrants and a
dungeon of slaves.' (_Ib_ vi. 130.) In 1759 he wrote:--'Of black men the
numbers are too great who are now repining under English cruelty.' (_Ib_
iv. 407.) In the same year, in describing the cruelty of the Portuguese
discoverers, he said:--'We are openly told that they had the less
scruple concerning their treatment of the savage people, because they
scarcely considered them as distinct from beasts; and indeed, the
practice of all the European nations, and among others of the _English
barbarians that cultivate the southern islands of America_, proves that
this opinion, however absurd and foolish, however wicked and injurious,
still continues to prevail. Interest and pride harden the heart, and it
is in vain to dispute against avarice and power.' (_Ib_ v. 218.) No
miserable sophistry could convince him, with his clear mind and his
ardour for liberty, that slavery can be right. 'An individual,' he wrote
(_post_, iii. 202), 'may, indeed, forfeit his liberty by a crime; but he
cannot by that crime forfeit the liberty of his children.' How deeply he
felt for the wrongs done to helpless races is shown in his dread of
discoverers. No man had a more eager curiosity, or more longed that the
bounds of knowledge should be enlarged. Yet he wrote:--'I do not much
wish well to discoveries, for I am always afraid they will end in
conquest and robbery.' (Croker's _Boswell_, p. 248.) In his _Life of
Savage_, written in 1744, he said (_Works_, viii. 156):--'Savage has not
forgotten ... to censure those crimes which have been generally
committed by the discoverers of new regions, and to expose the enormous
wickedness of making war upon barbarous nations because they cannot
resist, and of invading countries because they are fruitful.... He has
asserted the natural equality of mankind, and endeavoured to suppress
that pride which inclines men to imagine that right is the consequence
of power.' He loved the University of Salamanca, because it gave it as
its opinion that the conquest of America by the Spaniards was not lawful
(_ante_, i. 455). When, in 1756, the English and French were at war in
America, he said that 'such was the contest that no honest man could
heartily wish success to either party.... It was only the quarrel of two
robbers for the spoils of a passenger' (_ante_, i. 308, note 2). When,
from political considerations, opposition was raised in 1766 to the
scheme of translating the Bible into Erse, he wrote:--'To omit for a
year, or for a day, the most efficacious method of advancing
Christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this
side of the grave, is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet
had an example, except in the practice of the planters of America--a
race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble'
(_ante_, ii. 27). Englishmen, as a nation, had no right to reproach
their fellow-subjects in America with being drivers of negroes; for
England shared in the guilt and the gain of that infamous traffic. Nay,
even as the Virginian delegates to Congress in 1774 complained:--'Our
repeated attempts to exclude all further importations of slaves from
Africa by prohibition, and by imposing duties which might amount to
prohibition, have hitherto been defeated by his Majesty's negative--thus
preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs to the
lasting interests of the American States, and to the rights of human
nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice.' Bright's _Speeches_,
ed. 1869, i. 171. Franklin (_Memoirs_, ed. 1818, iii. 17), writing from
London in 1772, speaks of 'the hypocrisy of this country, which
encourages such a detestable commerce by laws for promoting the Guinea
trade; while it piqued itself on its virtue, love of liberty, and the
equity of its courts in setting free a single negro.' From the slightest
stain of this hypocrisy Johnson was free. He, at all events, had a right
to protest against 'the yelps' of those who, while they solemnly
asserted that among the unalienable rights of all men are liberty and
the pursuit of happiness, yet themselves were drivers of negroes.
 Had he been 'busily employed' he would, no doubt, have finished the
edition in a few months. He himself had recorded at Easter, 1765: 'My
time has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left
nothing behind.' _Pr. and Med_., p. 61.
 Dedications had been commonly used as a means of getting money by
flattery. I. D'Israeli in his _Calamities of Authors_, i. 64,
says:--'Fuller's _Church History_ is disgraced by twelve particular
dedications. It was an expedient to procure dedication fees; for
publishing books by subscription was an art not yet discovered.' The
price of the dedication of a play was, he adds, in the time of George I,
twenty guineas. So much then, at least, Johnson lost by not dedicating
_Irene_. However, when he addressed the _Plan of his Dictionary_ to Lord
Chesterfield (_ante_, i. 183) he certainly came very near a dedication.
Boswell, in the _Hypochondriack_, writes:--'For my own part, I own I am
proud enough. But I do not relish the stateliness of not dedicating at
all. I prefer pleasure to pride, and it appears to me that there is much
pleasure in honestly expressing one's admiration, esteem, or affection
in a public manner, and in thus contributing to the happiness of another
by making him better pleased with himself.' _London Mag_. for 1782, p.
454. His dedications were dedications of friendship, not of flattery or
servility. He dedicated his _Tour to Corsica_ to Paoli, his _Tour to the
Hebrides_ to Malone, and his _Life of Johnson_ to Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Goldsmith, in like manner, distrest though he so often was, dedicated
his _Traveller_ to his brother, the _Deserted Village_ to Sir Joshua,
and _She Stoops to Conquer_ to Johnson.
 A passage in Boswell's letter to Malone of Jan. 29, 1791 (Croker's
_Boswell_, p. 829), shows that it is Reynolds of whom he is writing. 'I
am,' he writes, 'to cancel a leaf of the first volume, having found that
though Sir Joshua certainly assured me he had no objection to my
mentioning that Johnson wrote a dedication for him, he now thinks
otherwise. In that leaf occurs the mention of Johnson having written to
Dr. Leland, thanking the University of Dublin for their diploma.' In the
first edition, this mention of the letter is followed by the passage
above about dedications. It was no doubt Reynolds's _Dedication of his
Discourses_ to the King in the year 1778 that Johnson wrote. The first
sentence is in a high degree Johnsonian. 'The regular progress of
cultivated life is from necessaries to accommodations, from
accommodations to ornaments.'
 'That is to say,' he added, 'to the last generation of the Royal
Family.' See _post_, April 15, 1773. We may hope that the Royal Family
were not all like the Duke of Gloucester, who, when Gibbon brought him
the second volume of the _Decline and Fall_, 'received him with much
good nature and affability, saying to him, as he laid the quarto on the
table, "Another d----d thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble,
scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?"' Best's _Memorials_, p. 68.
 Such care was needless. Boswell complained (_post_, June 24, 1774),
that Johnson did not _answer_ his letters, but only sent him _returns_.
 'On one of the days that my ague disturbed me least, I walked from
the convent to Corte, purposely to write a letter to Mr. Samuel Johnson.
I told my revered friend, that from a kind of superstition agreeable in
a certain degree to him as well as to myself, I had, during my travels,
written to him from Loca Solennia, places in some measure sacred. That,
as I had written to him from the tomb of Melancthon (see _post_, June
28, 1777), sacred to learning and piety, I now wrote to him from the
palace of Pascal Paoli, sacred to wisdom and liberty.' Boswell's _Tour
to Corsica_, p. 218. How delighted would Boswell have been had he lived
to see the way in which he is spoken of by the biographer of Paoli: 'En
traversant la Mediterranee sur de freles navires pour venir s'asseoir au
foyer de la nationalite Corse, _des hommes graves_ tels que Boswel et
Volney obeissaient sans doute a un sentiment bien plus eleve qu' au
besoin vulgaire d'une puerile curiosite.' _Histoire de Pascal Paoli_,
par A. Arrighi, i. 231. By every Corsican of any education the name of
Boswell is known and honoured. One of them told me that it was in
Boswell's pages that Paoli still lived for them. He informed me also of
a family which still preserved by tradition the remembrance of Boswell's
visit to their ancestral home.
 The twelve following lines of this letter were published by Boswell
in his _Corsica_ (p. 219) without Johnson's leave. (See _post_, March
23, 1768.) Temple, to whom the book had been shewn before publication,
had, it should seem, advised Boswell to omit this extract. Boswell
replied:--'Your remarks are of great service to me ... but I must have
my great preceptor, Mr. Johnson, introduced.' _Letters of Boswell_, p.
122. In writing to excuse himself to Johnson (_post_, April 26, 1768),
he says, 'the temptation to publishing it was so strong.'
 'Tell your Court,' said Paoli to Boswell, 'what you have seen here.
They will be curious to ask you. A man come from Corsica will be like a
man come from the Antipodes.' Boswell's _Corsica_, p. 188. He was not
indeed the first 'native of this country' to go there. He found in
Bastia 'an English woman of Penrith, in Cumberland. When the Highlanders
marched through that country in the year 1745, she had married a soldier
of the French picquets in the very midst of all the confusion and
danger, and when she could hardly understand one word he said.' _Ib_, p.
226. Boswell nowhere quotes Mrs. Barbauld's fine lines on Corsica.
Perhaps he was ashamed of the praise of the wife of 'a little
Presbyterian parson who kept an infant boarding school.' (See _post_,
under Dec. 17, 1775.) Yet he must have been pleased when he read:--
'Such were the working thoughts which swelled the breast
Of generous Boswell; when with nobler aim
And views beyond the narrow beaten track
By trivial fancy trod, he turned his course
From polished Gallia's soft delicious vales,' &c.
Mrs. Barbauld's _Poems_, i. 2.
 Murphy, in the _Monthly Review_, lxxvi. 376, thus describes
Johnson's life in Johnson's Court after he had received his pension.
'His friend Levett, his physician in ordinary, paid his daily visits
with assiduity; attended at all hours, made tea all the morning, talked
what he had to say, and did not expect an answer; or, if occasion
required it, was mute, officious, and ever complying.... There Johnson
sat every morning, receiving visits, hearing the topics of the day, and
indolently trifling away the time. Chymistry afforded some amusement.'
Hawkins (_Life_, p. 452), says:--'An upper room, which had the
advantages of a good light and free air, he fitted up for a study. A
silver standish and some useful plate, which he had been prevailed on to
accept as pledges of kindness from some who most esteemed him, together
with furniture that would not have disgraced a better dwelling, banished
those appearances of squalid indigence which, in his less happy days,
disgusted those who came to see him.' Some of the plate Johnson had
bought. See _post_, April 15, 1781.
 It is remarkable, that Mr. Gray has employed somewhat the same
image to characterise Dryden. He, indeed, furnishes his car with but two
horses, but they are of 'ethereal race':
'Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car,
Wide o'er the fields of glory bear
Two coursers of ethereal race,
With necks in thunder cloath'd, and long resounding pace.'
_Ode on the Progress of Poesy_. BOSWELL. In the '_Life of Pope (Works_,
viii. 324) Johnson says:--'The style of Dryden is capricious and varied;
that of Pope is cautious and uniform. Dryden obeys the motions of his
own mind; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition.
Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform,
 In the original _laws or kings_.
'The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.'
_Paradise Lost_, i. 254.
'Caelum, non animum, mutant qui
trans mare current.'
Horace, _Epis_. i. II. 27. See also _ante_, i. 381. note 2.
 'I once inadvertently put him,' wrote Reynolds, 'in a situation
from which none but a man of perfect integrity could extricate himself.
I pointed at some lines in _The Traveller_ which I told him I was sure
he wrote. He hesitated a little; during this hesitation I recollected
myself, that, as I knew he would not lie, I put him in a cleft-stick,
and should have had but my due if he had given me a rough answer; but he
only said, 'Sir, I did not write them, but that you may not imagine that
I have wrote more than I really have, the utmost I have wrote in that
poem, to the best of my recollection, is not more than eighteen lines.
[Nine seems the actual number.] It must be observed there was then an
opinion about town that Dr. Johnson wrote the whole poem for his friend,
who was then in a manner an unknown writer.' Taylor's _Reynolds_, ii.
458. See also _post_, April 9, 1778. For each line of _The Traveller_
Goldsmith was paid 11-1/4d. (_ante_, i. 193, note), Johnson's present,
therefore, of nine lines was, if reckoned in money, worth 8/5-1/4.
 See _ante_, i. 194, note.
 _Respublica et Status Regni Hungariae. Ex Officina Elzeviriana_,
1634, p. 136. This work belongs to the series of _Republics_ mentioned
by Johnson, _post_, under April 29, 1776.
 '"Luke" had been taken simply for the euphony of the line. He was
one of two brothers, Dosa.... The origin of the mistake [of Zeck for
Dosa] is curious. The two brothers belonged to one of the native races
of Transylvania called Szeklers or Zecklers, which descriptive addition
follows their names in the German biographical authorities; and this,
through abridgment and misapprehension, in subsequent books came at last
to be substituted for the family name.' Forster's _Goldsmith_, i. 370.
The iron crown was not the worst of the tortures inflicted.
 See _post_, April 15, 1781. In 1748 Johnson had written (_Works_,
v. 231): 'At a time when so many schemes of education have been
projected.... so many schools opened for general knowledge, and so many
lectures in particular sciences attended.' Goldsmith, in his _Life of
Nash_ (published in 1762), describes the lectures at Bath 'on the arts
and sciences which are frequently taught there in a pretty, superficial
manner so as not to tease the understanding while they afford the
imagination some amusement.' Cunningham's _Goldsmith's Works_, iv 59.
 Perhaps Gibbon had read this passage at the time when he wrote in
his Memoirs:--'It has indeed been observed, nor is the observation
absurd, that, excepting in experimental sciences which demand a costly
apparatus and a dexterous hand, the many valuable treatises that have
been published on every subject of learning may now supersede the
ancient mode of oral instruction.' Gibbon's _Misc. Works_, i. 50. See
_post_, March 20, 1776, note.
 See _ante_, i. 103.
 Baretti was in Italy at the same time as Boswell. That they met
seems to be shewn by a passage in Boswell's letter (_post_, Nov. 6,
1766). Malone wrote of him:--'He appears to be an infidel.' Prior's
_Malone_, p. 399.
 Lord Charlemont records (_Life_, i. 235) that 'Mrs. Mallet, meeting
Hume at an assembly, boldly accosted him in these words:--"Mr. Hume,
give me leave to introduce myself to you; we deists ought to know each
other." "Madame," replied Hume, "I am no deist. I do not style myself
so, neither do I desire to be known by that appellation."' Hume, in 1763
or 1764, wrote to Dr. Blair about the men of letters at Paris:--'It
would give you and Robertson great satisfaction to find that there is
not a single deist among them.' J. H. Burton's _Hume_, ii. 181. There
was no deist, I suppose, because they were all atheists. Romilly
(_Life_, i. 179) records the following anecdote, which he had from
Diderot in 1781:--'Hume dina avec une grande compagnie chez le Baron
d'Holbach. Il etait assis a cote du Baron; on parla de la religion
naturelle. "Pour les Athees," disait Hume, "je ne crois pas qu'il en
existe; je n'en ai jamais vu." "Vous avez ete un peu malheureux,"
repondit l'autre, "vous voici a table avec dix-sept pour la premiere
fois."' It was on the same day that Diderot related this that he said to
Romilly, 'Il faut _sabrer_ la theologie.'
 'The inference upon the whole is, that it is not from the value or
worth of the object which any person pursues that we can determine his
enjoyment; but merely from the passion with which he pursues it, and the
success which he meets with in his pursuit. Objects have absolutely no
worth or value in themselves. They derive their worth merely from the
passion. If that be strong and steady and successful, the person is
happy. It cannot reasonably be doubted but a little miss, dressed in a
new gown for a dancing-school ball, receives as complete enjoyment as
the greatest orator, who triumphs in the splendour of his eloquence,
while he governs the passions and resolutions of a numerous assembly.'
Hume's _Essays_, i. 17 (_The Sceptic_). Pope had written in the _Essay
on Man_ (iv. 57):
'Condition, circumstance, is not the thing;
Bliss is the same in subject or in King.'
See also _post_, April 15, 1778.
 In _Boswelliana_, p. 220, a brief account is given of his life,
which was not altogether uneventful.
 We may compare with this what he says in _The Rambler_, No. 21,
about the 'cowardice which always encroaches fast upon such as spend
their time in the company of persons higher than themselves.' In No. 104
he writes:--'It is dangerous for mean minds to venture themselves within
the sphere of greatness.' In the court that Boswell many years later
paid to Lord Lonsdale, he suffered all the humiliations that the
brutality of this petty greatness can inflict. _Letters of Boswell_, p.
324. See also _post_, Sept. 22, 1777.
 See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 19, 1773.
 Johnson (_Works_, ix. 107) thus sums up his examination of
second-sight:--'There is against it, the seeming analogy of things
confusedly seen, and little understood; and for it, the indistinct cry
of natural persuasion, which may be, perhaps, resolved at last into
prejudice and tradition. I never could advance my curiosity to
conviction; but came away at last only willing to believe.' See also
_post_, March 24, 1775. Hume said of the evidence in favour of
second-sight--:'As finite added to finite never approaches a hair's
breadth nearer to infinite, so a fact incredible in itself acquires not
the smallest accession of probability by the accumulation of testimony.'
J. H. Burton's Hume, i. 480.