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Life Of Johnson, Vol. 3 by Boswell, Edited by Birkbeck Hill

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by Joshua Barnes, in which are to be found such comical
_Anglo-Ellenisms_ as [Greek: Klubboisin ebanchthen]: they were banged
with clubs[828].

On Wednesday, April 15, I dined with Dr. Johnson at Mr. Dilly's, and was
in high spirits, for I had been a good part of the morning with Mr.
Orme, the able and eloquent historian of Hindostan, who expressed a
great admiration of Johnson. 'I do not care (said he,) on what subject
Johnson talks; but I love better to hear him talk than any body. He
either gives you new thoughts, or a new colouring. It is a shame to the
nation that he has not been more liberally rewarded. Had I been George
the Third, and thought as he did about America, I would have given
Johnson three hundred a year for his _Taxation no Tyranny_ alone.' I
repeated this, and Johnson was much pleased with such praise from such a
man as Orme.

At Mr. Dilly's to-day were Mrs. Knowles[829], the ingenious Quaker
lady[830], Miss Seward, the poetess of Lichfield, the Reverend Dr.
Mayo[831], and the Rev. Mr. Beresford, Tutor to the Duke of Bedford.
Before dinner Dr. Johnson seized upon Mr. Charles Sheridan's _Account of
the late Revolution in Sweden_[832], and seemed to read it ravenously, as
if he devoured it, which was to all appearance his method of studying.
'He knows how to read better than any one (said Mrs. Knowles;) he gets
at the substance of a book directly; he tears out the heart of it.' He
kept it wrapt up in the tablecloth in his lap during the time of dinner,
from an avidity to have one entertainment in readiness when he should
have finished another; resembling (if I may use so coarse a simile) a
dog who holds a bone in his paws in reserve, while he eats something
else which has been thrown to him.

The subject of cookery having been very naturally introduced at a table
where Johnson, who boasted of the niceness of his palate[833], owned that
'he always found a good dinner,' he said, 'I could write a better book
of cookery than has ever yet been written; it should be a book upon
philosophical principles. Pharmacy is now made much more simple. Cookery
may be made so too. A prescription which is now compounded of five
ingredients, had formerly fifty in it. So in cookery, if the nature of
the ingredients be well known, much fewer will do. Then as you cannot
make bad meat good, I would tell what is the best butcher's meat, the
best beef, the best pieces; how to choose young fowls; the proper
seasons of different vegetables; and then how to roast and boil, and
compound.' DILLY. 'Mrs. Glasse's _Cookery_, which is the best, was
written by Dr. Hill. Half the _trade_[834] know this.' JOHNSON. 'Well,
Sir. This shews how much better the subject of cookery may be treated by
a philosopher. I doubt if the book be written by Dr. Hill; for, in Mrs.
Glasse's _Cookery_, which I have looked into, salt-petre and
sal-prunella are spoken of as different substances, whereas sal-prunella
is only salt-petre burnt on charcoal; and Hill could not be ignorant of
this. However, as the greatest part of such a book is made by
transcription, this mistake may have been carelessly adopted. But you
shall see what a Book of Cookery I shall make! I shall agree with Mr.
Dilly for the copy-right.' Miss SEWARD. 'That would be Hercules with the
distaff indeed.' JOHNSON. 'No, Madam. Women can spin very well; but they
cannot make a good book of Cookery.'

JOHNSON. 'O! Mr. Dilly--you must know that an English Benedictine Monk
at Paris has translated _The Duke of Berwick's Memoirs_, from the
original French, and has sent them to me to sell. I offered them to
Strahan, who sent them back with this answer:--"That the first book he
had published was the _Duke of Berwick's Life_, by which he had lost:
and he hated the name."--Now I honestly tell you, that Strahan has
refused them; but I also honestly tell you, that he did it upon no
principle, for he never looked into them.' DILLY. 'Are they well
translated, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, very well--in a style very current
and very clear. I have written to the Benedictine to give me an answer
upon two points--What evidence is there that the letters are authentick?
(for if they are not authentick they are nothing;)--And how long will it
be before the original French is published? For if the French edition is
not to appear for a considerable time, the translation will be almost as
valuable as an original book. They will make two volumes in octavo; and
I have undertaken to correct every sheet as it comes from the press.'
Mr. Dilly desired to see them, and said he would send for them. He asked
Dr. Johnson if he would write a Preface to them. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. The
Benedictines were very kind to me[835], and I'll do what I undertook to
do; but I will not mingle my name with them. I am to gain nothing by
them. I'll turn them loose upon the world, and let them take their
chance.' DR. MAYO. 'Pray, Sir, are Ganganelli's letters authentick?'
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. Voltaire put the same question to the editor of them,
that I did to Macpherson--Where are the originals[836]?'

Mrs. Knowles affected to complain that men had much more liberty allowed
them than women. JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, women have all the liberty they
should wish to have. We have all the labour and the danger, and the
women all the advantage. We go to sea, we build houses, we do
everything, in short, to pay our court to the women.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'The
Doctor reasons very wittily, but not convincingly. Now, take the
instance of building; the mason's wife, if she is ever seen in liquor,
is ruined; the mason may get himself drunk as often as he pleases, with
little loss of character; nay, may let his wife and children starve.'
JOHNSON. 'Madam, you must consider, if the mason does get himself drunk,
and let his wife and children starve, the parish will oblige him to find
security for their maintenance. We have different modes of restraining
evil. Stocks for the men, a ducking-stool for women[837], and a pound for
beasts. If we require more perfection from women than from ourselves, it
is doing them honour. And women have not the same temptations that we
have: they may always live in virtuous company; men must mix in the
world indiscriminately. If a woman has no inclination to do what is
wrong being secured from it is no restraint to her. I am at liberty to
walk into the Thames; but if I were to try it, my friends would restrain
me in Bedlam, and I should be obliged to them.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'Still,
Doctor, I cannot help thinking it a hardship that more indulgence is
allowed to men than to women. It gives a superiority to men, to which I
do not see how they are entitled.' JOHNSON. 'It is plain, Madam, one or
other must have the superiority. As Shakspeare says, "If two men ride on
a horse, one must ride behind[838]."' DILLY. 'I suppose, Sir, Mrs. Knowles
would have them to ride in panniers, one on each side.' JOHNSON. 'Then,
Sir, the horse would throw them both.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'Well, I hope that
in another world the sexes will be equal.' BOSWELL. 'That is being too
ambitious, Madam. _We_ might as well desire to be equal with the angels.
We shall all, I hope, be happy in a future state, but we must not expect
to be all happy in the same degree. It is enough if we be happy
according to our several capacities. A worthy carman will get to heaven
as well as Sir Isaac Newton. Yet, though equally good, they will not
have the same degrees of happiness.' JOHNSON. 'Probably not.'

Upon this subject I had once before sounded him, by mentioning the late
Reverend Mr. Brown, of Utrecht's, image; that a great and small glass,
though equally full, did not hold an equal quantity; which he threw out
to refute David Hume's saying[839], that a little miss, going to dance at
a ball, in a fine new dress, was as happy as a great oratour, after
having made an eloquent and applauded speech. After some thought,
Johnson said, 'I come over to the parson.' As an instance of coincidence
of thinking, Mr. Dilly told me, that Dr. King, a late dissenting
minister in London, said to him, upon the happiness in a future state of
good men of different capacities, 'A pail does not hold so much as a
tub; but, if it be equally full, it has no reason to complain. Every
Saint in heaven will have as much happiness as he can hold.' Mr. Dilly
thought this a clear, though a familiar illustration of the phrase, 'One
star differeth from another in brightness[840].'

Dr. Mayo having asked Johnson's opinion of Soame Jenyns's _View of the
Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion_[841];--JOHNSON. 'I think it a
pretty book; not very theological indeed; and there seems to be an
affectation of ease and carelessness, as if it were not suitable to his
character to be very serious about the matter.' BOSWELL. 'He may have
intended this to introduce his book the better among genteel people, who
might be unwilling to read too grave a treatise. There is a general
levity in the age. We have physicians now with bag-wigs[842]; may we not
have airy divines, at least somewhat less solemn in their appearance
than they used to be?' JOHNSON. 'Jenyns might mean as you say[843].'
BOSWELL. 'You should like his book, Mrs. Knowles, as it maintains, as
you _friends_ do, that courage is not a Christian virtue.' MRS. KNOWLES.
'Yes, indeed, I like him there; but I cannot agree with him, that
friendship is not a Christian virtue[844].' JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, strictly
speaking, he is right. All friendship is preferring the interest of a
friend, to the neglect, or, perhaps, against the interest of others; so
that an old Greek said, "He that has _friends_ has _no friend_." Now
Christianity recommends universal benevolence, to consider all men as
our brethren[845], which is contrary to the virtue of friendship, as
described by the ancient philosophers. Surely, Madam, your sect must
approve of this; for, you call all men _friends_.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'We are
commanded to do good to all men, "but especially to them who are of the
household of Faith[846]."' JOHNSON. 'Well, Madam. The household of Faith
is wide enough.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'But, Doctor, our Saviour had twelve
Apostles, yet there was _one_ whom he _loved_. John was called "the
disciple whom JESUS loved[847]."' JOHNSON (with eyes sparkling
benignantly). 'Very well, indeed, Madam. You have said very well.'
BOSWELL. 'A fine application. Pray, Sir, had you ever thought of it?'
JOHNSON. 'I had not, Sir.'

From this pleasing subject[848], he, I know not how or why, made a sudden
transition to one upon which he was a violent aggressor; for he said, 'I
am willing to love all mankind, _except an American_:' and his
inflammable corruption bursting into horrid fire, he 'breathed out
threatenings and slaughter[849];' calling them, 'Rascals--Robbers--
Pirates;' and exclaiming, he'd 'burn and destroy them.' Miss Seward,
looking to him with mild but steady astonishment, said, 'Sir, this is an
instance that we are always most violent against those whom we have
injured.'--He was irritated still more by this delicate and keen
reproach; and roared out another tremendous volley, which one might
fancy could be heard across the Atlantick. During this tempest I sat in
great uneasiness, lamenting his heat of temper; till, by degrees, I
diverted his attention to other topicks.

DR. MAYO (to Dr. Johnson). 'Pray, Sir, have you read _Edwards, of New
England, on Grace_?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir.' BOSWELL. 'It puzzled me so much
as to the freedom of the human will, by stating, with wonderful acute
ingenuity, our being actuated by a series of motives which we cannot
resist, that the only relief I had was to forget it.' MAYO. 'But he
makes the proper distinction between moral and physical necessity.'
BOSWELL. 'Alas, Sir, they come both to the same thing. You may be bound
as hard by chains when covered by leather, as when the iron appears. The
argument for the moral necessity of human actions is always, I observe,
fortified by supposing universal prescience to be one of the attributes
of the Deity.' JOHNSON. 'You are surer that you are free, than you are
of prescience; you are surer that you can lift up your finger or not as
you please, than you are of any conclusion from a deduction of
reasoning. But let us consider a little the objection from prescience.
It is certain I am either to go home to-night or not; that does not
prevent my freedom.' BOSWELL. 'That it is certain you are _either_ to go
home or not, does not prevent your freedom; because the liberty of
choice between the two is compatible with that certainty. But if _one_
of these events be certain _now_, you have no _future_ power of
volition. If it be certain you are to go home to-night, you _must_ go
home.' JOHNSON. 'If I am well acquainted with a man, I can judge with
great probability how he will act in any case, without his being
restrained by my judging. GOD may have this probability increased to
certainty.' BOSWELL. 'When it is increased to _certainty_, freedom
ceases, because that cannot be certainly foreknown, which is not certain
at the time; but if it be certain at the time, it is a contradiction in
terms to maintain that there can be afterwards any _contingency_
dependent upon the exercise of will or any thing else.' JOHNSON. 'All
theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it[850].'--I
did not push the subject any farther. I was glad to find him so mild in
discussing a question of the most abstract nature, involved with
theological tenets, which he generally would not suffer to be in any
degree opposed[851].

He as usual defended luxury[852]; 'You cannot spend money in luxury
without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by
spending it in luxury, than by giving it: for by spending it in luxury,
you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle.
I own, indeed, there may be more virtue in giving it immediately in
charity, than in spending it in luxury; though there may be a pride in
that too.' Miss Seward asked, if this was not Mandeville's doctrine of
'private vices publick benefits.' JOHNSON. 'The fallacy of that book is,
that Mandeville defines neither vices nor benefits. He reckons among
vices everything that gives pleasure[853]. He takes the narrowest system
of morality, monastick morality, which holds pleasure itself to be a
vice, such as eating salt with our fish, because it makes it eat better;
and he reckons wealth as a publick benefit, which is by no means always
true. Pleasure of itself is not a vice. Having a garden, which we all
know to be perfectly innocent, is a great pleasure. At the same time, in
this state of being there are many pleasures vices, which however are so
immediately agreeable that we can hardly abstain from them. The
happiness of Heaven will be, that pleasure and virtue will be perfectly
consistent. Mandeville puts the case of a man who gets drunk in an
alehouse; and says it is a publick benefit, because so much money is got
by it to the publick. But it must be considered, that all the good
gained by this, through the gradation of alehouse-keeper, brewer,
maltster, and farmer, is overbalanced by the evil caused to the man and
his family by his getting drunk[854]. This is the way to try what is
vicious, by ascertaining whether more evil than good is produced by it
upon the whole, which is the case in all vice. It may happen that good
is produced by vice; but not as vice; for instance, a robber may take
money from its owner, and give it to one who will make a better use of
it. Here is good produced; but not by the robbery as robbery, but as
translation of property[855]. I read Mandeville forty, or, I believe,
fifty years ago. He did not puzzle me; he opened my views into real life
very much[856]. No, it is clear that the happiness of society depends on
virtue. In Sparta, theft was allowed by general consent[857]: theft,
therefore, was _there_ not a crime, but then there was no security; and
what a life must they have had, when there was no security. Without
truth there must be a dissolution of society. As it is, there is so
little truth, that we are almost afraid to trust our ears; but how
should we be, if falsehood were multiplied ten times? Society is held
together by communication and information; and I remember this remark of
Sir Thomas Brown's, "Do the devils lie? No; for then Hell could not

Talking of Miss ----[859], a literary lady, he said, 'I was obliged to
speak to Miss Reynolds, to let her know that I desired she would not
flatter me so much.' Somebody now observed, 'She flatters Garrick.'
JOHNSON. 'She is in the right to flatter Garrick. She is in the right
for two reasons; first, because she has the world with her, who have
been praising Garrick these thirty years; and secondly, because she is
rewarded for it by Garrick[860]. Why should she flatter _me_? I can do
nothing for her. Let her carry her praise to a better market[861]. (Then
turning to Mrs. Knowles). You, Madam, have been flattering me all the
evening; I wish you would give Boswell a little now. If you knew his
merit as well as I do, you would say a great deal; he is the best
travelling companion in the world[862].'

Somebody mentioned the Reverend Mr. Mason's prosecution of Mr.
Murray[863], the bookseller, for having inserted in a collection of
_Gray's Poems_, only fifty lines, of which Mr. Mason had still the
exclusive property, under the statute of Queen Anne; and that Mr. Mason
had persevered, notwithstanding his being requested to name his own
terms of compensation[864]. Johnson signified his displeasure at Mr.
Mason's conduct very strongly; but added, by way of shewing that he was
not surprized at it, 'Mason's a Whig.' MRS. KNOWLES, (not hearing
distinctly:) 'What! a Prig, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Worse, Madam; a Whig! But he
is both.'

I expressed a horrour at the thought of death. MRS. KNOWLES. 'Nay, thou
should'st not have a horrour for what is the gate of life.' JOHNSON,
(standing upon the hearth rolling about, with a serious, solemn, and
somewhat gloomy air:) 'No rational man can die without uneasy
apprehension.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'The Scriptures tell us, "The righteous
shall have _hope_ in his death[865]."' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Madam; that is, he
shall not have despair[866]. But, consider, his hope of salvation must be
founded on the terms on which it is promised that the mediation of our
SAVIOUR shall be applied to us,--namely, obedience; and where obedience
has failed, then, as suppletory to it, repentance. But what man can say
that his obedience has been such, as he would approve of in another, or
even in himself upon close examination, or that his repentance has not
been such as to require being repented of? No man can be sure that his
obedience and repentance will obtain salvation.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'But
divine intimation of acceptance may be made to the soul.' JOHNSON.
'Madam, it may; but I should not think the better of a man who should
tell me on his death-bed he was sure of salvation. A man cannot be sure
himself that he has divine intimation of acceptance; much less can he
make others sure that he has it[867].' BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, we must be
contented to acknowledge that death is a terrible thing.' JOHNSON. 'Yes,
Sir. I have made no approaches to a state which can look on it as not
terrible[868].' MRS. KNOWLES, (seeming to enjoy a pleasing serenity in the
persuasion of benignant divine light:) 'Does not St. Paul say, "I have
fought the good fight of faith, I have finished my course; henceforth is
laid up for me a crown of life[869]?"' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Madam; but here was
a man inspired, a man who had been converted by supernatural
interposition.' BOSWELL. 'In prospect death is dreadful; but in fact we
find that people die easy.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, most people have not
_thought_ much of the matter, so cannot _say_ much, and it is supposed
they die easy. Few believe it certain they are then to die; and those
who do, set themselves to behave with resolution, as a man does who is
going to be hanged. He is not the less unwilling to be hanged[870].' MISS
SEWARD. 'There is one mode of the fear of death, which is certainly
absurd; and that is the dread of annihilation, which is only a pleasing
sleep without a dream.' JOHNSON. 'It is neither pleasing, nor sleep; it
is nothing. Now mere existence is so much better than nothing, that one
would rather exist even in pain, than not exist[871].' BOSWELL. 'If
annihilation be nothing, then existing in pain is not a comparative
state, but is a positive evil, which I cannot think we should choose. I
must be allowed to differ here; and it would lessen the hope of a future
state founded on the argument, that the Supreme Being, who is good as he
is great, will hereafter compensate for our present sufferings in this
life. For if existence, such as we have it here, be comparatively a
good, we have no reason to complain, though no more of it should be
given to us. But if our only state of existence were in this world, then
we might with some reason complain that we are so dissatisfied with our
enjoyments compared with our desires.' JOHNSON. 'The lady confounds
annihilation, which is nothing, with the apprehension of it, which is
dreadful. It is in the apprehension of it that the horrour of
annihilation consists[872].'

Of John Wesley, he said, 'He can talk well on any subject[873].' BOSWELL.
'Pray, Sir, what has he made of his story of a ghost?' JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, he believes it; but not on sufficient authority. He did not take
time enough to examine the girl. It was at Newcastle, where the ghost
was said to have appeared to a young woman several times, mentioning
something about the right to an old house, advising application to be
made to an attorney, which was done; and, at the same time, saying the
attorney would do nothing, which proved to be the fact. "This (says
John) is a proof that a ghost knows our thoughts[874]." Now (laughing) it
is not necessary to know our thoughts, to tell that an attorney will
sometimes do nothing. Charles Wesley, who is a more stationary man, does
not believe the story. I am sorry that John did not take more pains to
inquire into the evidence for it.' MISS SEWARD, (with an incredulous
smile:) 'What, Sir! about a ghost?' JOHNSON, (with solemn vehemence:)
'Yes, Madam: this is a question which, after five thousand years, is yet
undecided; a question, whether in theology or philosophy, one of the
most important that can come before the human understanding[875].'

Mrs. Knowles mentioned, as a proselyte to Quakerism, Miss ----[876], a
young lady well known to Dr. Johnson, for whom he had shewn much
affection; while she ever had, and still retained, a great respect for
him. Mrs. Knowles at the same time took an opportunity of letting him
know 'that the amiable young creature was sorry at finding that he was
offended at her leaving the Church of England and embracing a simpler
faith;' and, in the gentlest and most persuasive manner, solicited his
kind indulgence for what was sincerely a matter of conscience. JOHNSON,
(frowning very angrily,) 'Madam, she is an odious wench. She could not
have any proper conviction that it was her duty to change her religion,
which is the most important of all subjects, and should be studied with
all care, and with all the helps we can get. She knew no more of the
Church which she left, and that which she embraced, than she did of the
difference between the Copernican and Ptolemaick systems.' MRS. KNOWLES.
'She had the New Testament before her.' JOHNSON. 'Madam, she could not
understand the New Testament, the most difficult book in the world, for
which the study of a life is required.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'It is clear as to
essentials.' JOHNSON. 'But not as to controversial points. The heathens
were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up; but we ought
not, without very strong conviction indeed, to desert the religion in
which we have been educated. That is the religion given you, the
religion in which it may be said Providence has placed you. If you live
conscientiously in that religion, you may be safe. But errour is
dangerous indeed, if you err when you choose a religion for
yourself[877].' MRS. KNOWLES. 'Must we then go by implicit faith?'
JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, the greatest part of our knowledge is implicit
faith; and as to religion, have we heard all that a disciple of
Confucius, all that a Mahometan, can say for himself?' He then rose
again into passion, and attacked the young proselyte in the severest
terms of reproach, so that both the ladies seemed to be much shocked[878].

We remained together till it was pretty late. Notwithstanding occasional
explosions of violence, we were all delighted upon the whole with
Johnson. I compared him at this time to a warm West-Indian climate,
where you have a bright sun, quick vegetation, luxuriant foliage,
luscious fruits; but where the same heat sometimes produces thunder,
lightning, earthquakes, in a terrible degree.

April 17, being Good Friday[879], I waited on Johnson, as usual. I
observed at breakfast that although it was a part of his abstemious
discipline on this most solemn fast, to take no milk in his tea, yet
when Mrs. Desmoulins inadvertently poured it in, he did not reject it. I
talked of the strange indecision of mind, and imbecility in the common
occurrences of life, which we may observe in some people. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, I am in the habit of getting others to do things for me.' BOSWELL.
'What, Sir! have you that weakness?' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I always
think afterwards I should have done better for myself.' I told him that
at a gentleman's house[880] where there was thought to be such
extravagance or bad management, that he was living much beyond his
income, his lady had objected to the cutting of a pickled mango, and
that I had taken an opportunity to ask the price of it, and found it was
only two shillings; so here was a very poor saving. JOHNSON. 'Sir, that
is the blundering oeconomy of a narrow understanding. It is stopping one
hole in a sieve.'

I expressed some inclination to publish an account of my _Travels_ upon
the continent of Europe, for which I had a variety of materials
collected. JOHNSON. 'I do not say, Sir, you may not publish your
travels; but I give you my opinion, that you would lessen yourself by
it. What can you tell of countries so well known as those upon the
continent of Europe, which you have visited?' BOSWELL. 'But I can give
an entertaining narrative, with many incidents, anecdotes, _jeux
d'esprit_, and remarks, so as to make very pleasant reading.' JOHNSON.
'Why, Sir, most modern travellers in Europe who have published their
travels, have been laughed at: I would not have you added to the
number[881]. The world is now not contented to be merely entertained by a
traveller's narrative; they want to learn something[882]. Now some of my
friends asked me, why I did not give some account of my travels in
France. The reason is plain; intelligent readers had seen more of France
than I had. _You_ might have liked my travels in France, and THE CLUB
might have liked them; but, upon the whole, there would have been more
ridicule than good produced by them.' BOSWELL. 'I cannot agree with you,
Sir. People would like to read what you say of any thing. Suppose a face
has been painted by fifty painters before; still we love to see it done
by Sir Joshua.' JOHNSON. 'True, Sir, but Sir Joshua cannot paint a face
when he has not time to look on it.' BOSWELL. 'Sir, a sketch of any sort
by him is valuable. And, Sir, to talk to you in your own style (raising
my voice, and shaking my head,) you _should_ have given us your travels
in France. I am _sure_ I am right, and _there's an end on't_.'

I said to him that it was certainly true, as my friend Dempster had
observed in his letter to me upon the subject, that a great part of what
was in his _Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland_ had been in his
mind before he left London. JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir, the topicks were;
and books of travels[883] will be good in proportion to what a man has
previously in his mind; his knowing what to observe; his power of
contrasting one mode of life with another. As the Spanish proverb says,
"He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the
wealth of the Indies with him." So it is in travelling; a man must carry
knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.' BOSWELL. 'The
proverb, I suppose, Sir, means, he must carry a large stock with him to
trade with.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir.'

It was a delightful day: as we walked to St. Clement's church[884], I
again remarked that Fleet-street was the most cheerful scene in the
world[885]. 'Fleet-street (said I,) is in my mind more delightful than
Tempe.' JOHNSON. 'Ay, Sir; but let it be compared with Mull.'

There was a very numerous congregation to-day at St. Clement's church,
which Dr. Johnson said he observed with pleasure.

And now I am to give a pretty full account of one of the most curious
incidents in Johnson's life, of which he himself has made the following
minute on this day: 'In my return from church, I was accosted by
Edwards[886], an old fellow-collegian, who had not seen me since 1729. He
knew me, and asked if I remembered one Edwards; I did not at first
recollect the name, but gradually as we walked along, recovered it, and
told him a conversation that had passed at an alehouse between us. My
purpose is to continue our acquaintance[887].'

It was in Butcher-row that this meeting happened. Mr. Edwards, who was a
decent-looking elderly man in grey clothes, and a wig of many curls,
accosted Johnson with familiar confidence, knowing who he was, while
Johnson returned his salutation with a courteous formality, as to a
stranger. But as soon as Edwards had brought to his recollection their
having been at Pembroke-College together nine-and-forty years ago, he
seemed much pleased, asked where he lived, and said he should be glad to
see him in Bolt-court. EDWARDS. 'Ah, Sir! we are old men now[888].'
JOHNSON, (who never liked to think of being old[889]:) 'Don't let us
discourage one another.' EDWARDS. 'Why, Doctor, you look stout and
hearty, I am happy to see you so; for the newspapers told us you were
very ill[890].' JOHNSON, 'Ay, Sir, they are always telling lies of _us old

Wishing to be present at more of so singular a conversation as that
between two fellow-collegians, who had lived forty years in London
without ever having chanced to meet, I whispered to Mr. Edwards that Dr.
Johnson was going home, and that he had better accompany him now. So
Edwards walked along with us, I eagerly assisting to keep up the
conversation. Mr. Edwards informed Dr. Johnson that he had practised
long as a solicitor in Chancery, but that he now lived in the country
upon a little farm, about sixty acres, just by Stevenage in
Hertfordshire, and that he came to London (to Barnard's Inn, No. 6),
generally twice a week. Johnson appearing to me in a reverie, Mr.
Edwards addressed himself to me, and expatiated on the pleasure of
living in the country. BOSWELL. 'I have no notion of this, Sir. What you
have to entertain you, is, I think, exhausted in half an hour.' EDWARDS.
'What? don't you love to have hope realized? I see my grass, and my
corn, and my trees growing. Now, for instance, I am curious to see if
this frost has not nipped my fruit-trees.' JOHNSON, (who we did not
imagine was attending:) 'You find, Sir, you have fears as well as
hopes.'--So well did he see the whole, when another saw but the half of
a subject.

When we got to Dr. Johnson's house, and were seated in his library, the
dialogue went on admirably. EDWARDS. 'Sir, I remember you would not let
us say _prodigious_ at College[891]. For even then, Sir, (turning to me,)
he was delicate in language, and we all feared him[892].' JOHNSON, (to
Edwards:) 'From your having practised the law long, Sir, I presume you
must be rich.' EDWARDS. 'No, Sir; I got a good deal of money; but I had
a number of poor relations to whom I gave a great part of it.' JOHNSON.
'Sir, you have been rich in the most valuable sense of the word.'
EDWARDS. 'But I shall not die rich.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, sure, Sir, it is
better to _live_ rich than to _die_ rich.' EDWARDS. 'I wish I had
continued at College.' JOHNSON. 'Why do you wish that, Sir?' EDWARDS.
'Because I think I should have had a much easier life than mine has
been. I should have been a parson, and had a good living, like Bloxam
and several others, and lived comfortably.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, the life of a
parson, of a conscientious clergyman, is not easy. I have always
considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he is able
to maintain. I would rather have Chancery suits upon my hands than the
cure of souls. No, Sir, I do not envy a clergyman's life as an easy
life[893], nor do I envy the clergyman who makes it an easy life.' Here
taking himself up all of a sudden, he exclaimed, 'O! Mr. Edwards! I'll
convince you that I recollect you. Do you remember our drinking together
at an alehouse near Pembroke gate[894]. At that time, you told me of the
Eton boy, who, when verses on our Saviour's turning water into wine were
prescribed as an exercise, brought up a single line, which was highly

"_Vidit et erubuit lympha pudica Deum_[895],"

and I told you of another fine line in Camden's _Remains_, an eulogy
upon one of our Kings, who was succeeded by his son, a prince of equal

"_Mira cano, Sol occubuit, nox nulla secuta est_[896]."'

EDWARDS. 'You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my
time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always
breaking in[897].' Mr. Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Courtenay, Mr.
Malone, and, indeed, all the eminent men to whom I have mentioned this,
have thought it an exquisite trait of character. The truth is, that
philosophy, like religion, is too generally supposed to be hard and
severe, at least so grave as to exclude all gaiety.

EDWARDS. 'I have been twice married, Doctor. You, I suppose, have never
known what it was to have a wife.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I have known what it
was to have a wife, and (in a solemn tender faultering tone) I have
known what it was to _lose a wife_.--It had almost broke my heart.'

EDWARDS. 'How do you live, Sir? For my part, I must have my regular
meals, and a glass of good wine. I find I require it.' JOHNSON. 'I now
drink no wine, Sir. Early in life I drank wine: for many years I drank
none. I then for some years drank a great deal.' EDWARDS. 'Some
hogsheads, I warrant you.' JOHNSON. 'I then had a severe illness, and
left it off[898], and I have never begun it again. I never felt any
difference upon myself from eating one thing rather than another, nor
from one kind of weather rather than another[899]. There are people. I
believe, who feel a difference; but I am not one of them. And as to
regular meals, I have fasted from the Sunday's dinner to the Tuesday's
dinner, without any inconvenience[900]. I believe it is best to eat just
as one is hungry: but a man who is in business, or a man who has a
family, must have stated meals. I am a straggler. I may leave this town
and go to Grand Cairo, without being missed here or observed there.'
EDWARDS. 'Don't you eat supper, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir.' EDWARDS. 'For
my part, now, I consider supper as a turnpike through which one must
pass, in order to get to bed[901].'

JOHNSON. 'You are a lawyer, Mr. Edwards. Lawyers know life practically.
A bookish man should always have them to converse with. They have what
he wants.' EDWARDS. 'I am grown old: I am sixty-five.' JOHNSON. 'I shall
be sixty-eight[902] next birth-day. Come, Sir, drink water, and put in for
a hundred.'

Mr. Edwards mentioned a gentleman who had left his whole fortune to
Pembroke College. JOHNSON. 'Whether to leave one's whole fortune to a
College be right, must depend upon circumstances. I would leave the
interest of the fortune I bequeathed to a College to my relations or my
friends, for their lives[903]. It is the same thing to a College, which is
a permanent society, whether it gets the money now or twenty years
hence; and I would wish to make my relations or friends feel the benefit
of it.'

This interview confirmed my opinion of Johnson's most humane and
benevolent heart. His cordial and placid behaviour to an old
fellow-collegian, a man so different from himself; and his telling him
that he would go down to his farm and visit him, showed a kindness of
disposition very rare at an advanced age. He observed, 'how wonderful it
was that they had both been in London forty years, without having ever
once met, and both walkers in the street too!' Mr. Edwards, when going
away, again recurred to his consciousness of senility, and looking full
in Johnson's face, said to him, 'You'll find in Dr. Young,

"O my coevals! remnants of yourselves[904]!"'

Johnson did not relish this at all; but shook his head with impatience.
Edwards walked off, seemingly highly pleased with the honour of having
been thus noticed by Dr. Johnson. When he was gone, I said to Johnson, I
thought him but a weak man. JOHNSON. 'Why, yes, Sir. Here is a man who
has passed through life without experience: yet I would rather have him
with me than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is
always willing to say what he has to say.' Yet Dr. Johnson had himself
by no means that willingness which he praised so much, and I think so
justly; for who has not felt the painful effect of the dreary void, when
there is a total silence in a company, for any length of time; or, which
is as bad, or perhaps worse, when the conversation is with difficulty
kept up by a perpetual effort?

Johnson once observed to me, 'Tom Tyers described me the best: "Sir
(said he), you are like a ghost: you never speak till you are spoken

The gentleman whom he thus familiarly mentioned was Mr. Thomas Tyers,
son of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the founder of that excellent place of
publick amusement, Vauxhall Gardens, which must ever be an estate to its
proprietor, as it is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English
nation; there being a mixture of curious show,--gay exhibition,--musick,
vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear;--for all
which only a shilling is paid[906]; and, though last, not least, good
eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale[907]. Mr.
Thomas Tyers was bred to the law; but having a handsome fortune,
vivacity of temper, and eccentricity of mind, he could not confine
himself to the regularity of practice. He therefore ran about the world
with a pleasant carelessness, amusing everybody by his desultory
conversation[908]. He abounded in anecdote, but was not sufficiently
attentive to accuracy. I therefore cannot venture to avail myself much
of a biographical sketch of Johnson which he published, being one among
the various persons ambitious of appending their names to that of my
illustrious friend. That sketch is, however, an entertaining little
collection of fragments. Those which he published of Pope and Addison
are of higher merit; but his fame must chiefly rest upon his _Political
Conferences_, in which he introduces several eminent persons delivering
their sentiments in the way of dialogue, and discovers a considerable
share of learning, various knowledge, and discernment of character. This
much may I be allowed to say of a man who was exceedingly obliging to
me, and who lived with Dr. Johnson in as easy a manner as almost any of
his very numerous acquaintance.

Mr. Edwards had said to me aside, that Dr. Johnson should have been of a
profession[909]. I repeated the remark to Johnson that I might have his
own thoughts on the subject. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it _would_ have been better
that I had been of a profession. I ought to have been a lawyer.'
BOSWELL. 'I do not think, Sir, it would have been better, for we should
not have had the _English Dictionary_.' JOHNSON. 'But you would have had
_Reports_.' BOSWELL. 'Ay; but there would not have been another, who
could have written the _Dictionary_. There have been many very good
Judges. Suppose you had been Lord Chancellor; you would have delivered
opinions with more extent of mind, and in a more ornamented manner, than
perhaps any Chancellor ever did, or ever will do. But, I believe, causes
have been as judiciously decided as you could have done.' JOHNSON. 'Yes,
Sir. Property has been as well settled.'

Johnson, however, had a noble ambition floating in his mind, and had,
undoubtedly, often speculated on the possibility of his supereminent
powers being rewarded in this great and liberal country by the highest
honours of the state. Sir William Scott informs me, that upon the death
of the late Lord Lichfield, who was Chancellor of the University of
Oxford, he said to Johnson, 'What a pity it is, Sir, that you did not
follow the profession of the law[910]. You might have been Lord Chancellor
of Great Britain, and attained to the dignity of the peerage; and now
that the title of Lichfield, your native city, is extinct, you might
have had it[911].' Johnson, upon this, seemed much agitated; and, in an
angry tone, exclaimed, 'Why will you vex me by suggesting this, when it
is too late[912]?'

But he did not repine at the prosperity of others. The late Dr. Thomas
Leland told Mr. Courtenay, that when Mr. Edmund Burke shewed Johnson his
fine house and lands near Beaconsfield, Johnson coolly said, 'Non
equidem invideo; miror magis[913].'

Yet no man had a higher notion of the dignity of literature than
Johnson, or was more determined in maintaining the respect which he
justly considered as due to it. Of this, besides the general tenor of
his conduct in society, some characteristical instances may be

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that once when he dined in a numerous
company of booksellers, where the room being small, the head of the
table, at which he sat, was almost close to the fire, he persevered in
suffering a great deal of inconvenience from the heat, rather than quit
his place, and let one of them sit above him.

Goldsmith, in his diverting simplicity, complained one day, in a mixed
company, of Lord Camden. 'I met him (said he) at Lord Clare's house[914]
in the country, and he took no more notice of me than if I had been an
ordinary man.' The company having laughed heartily, Johnson stood forth
in defence of his friend. 'Nay, Gentleman, (said he,) Dr. Goldsmith is
in the right. A nobleman ought to have made up to such a man as
Goldsmith; and I think it is much against Lord Camden that he neglected

Nor could he patiently endure to hear that such respect as he thought
due only to higher intellectual qualities, should be bestowed on men of
slighter, though perhaps more amusing talents. I told him, that one
morning, when I went to breakfast with Garrick, who was very vain of his
intimacy with Lord Camden,[916] he accosted me thus:--'Pray now, did
you--did you meet a little lawyer turning the corner, eh?'--'No, Sir,
(said I.) Pray what do you mean by the question?'--'Why, (replied
Garrick, with an affected indifference, yet as if standing on tip-toe,)
Lord Camden has this moment left me. We have had a long walk together.'
JOHNSON. 'Well, Sir, Garrick talked very properly. Lord Camden _was a
little lawyer_ to be associating so familiarly with a player.' Sir
Joshua Reynolds observed, with great truth, that Johnson considered
Garrick to be as it were his _property_. He would allow no man either to
blame or to praise Garrick in his presence, without contradicting

Having fallen into a very serious frame of mind, in which mutual
expressions of kindness passed between us, such as would be thought too
vain in me to repeat, I talked with regret of the sad inevitable
certainty that one of us must survive the other. JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir,
that is an affecting consideration. I remember Swift, in one of his
letters to Pope, says, "I intend to come over, that we may meet once
more; and when we must part, it is what happens to all human
beings[918]."' BOSWELL. 'The hope that we shall see our departed
friends[919] again must support the mind.' JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir.'
BOSWELL. 'There is a strange unwillingness to part with life,
independent of serious fears as to futurity. A reverend friend of ours
(naming him) tells me, that he feels an uneasiness at the thoughts of
leaving his house, his study, his books.' JOHNSON. 'This is foolish in
----[920]. A man need not be uneasy on these grounds; for, as he will
retain his consciousness, he may say with the philosopher, _Omnia mea
mecum porto_[921].' BOSWELL. 'True, Sir: we may carry our books in our
heads; but still there is something painful in the thought of leaving
for ever what has given us pleasure. I remember, many years ago, when my
imagination was warm, and I happened to be in a melancholy mood, it
distressed me to think of going into a state of being in which
Shakspeare's poetry did not exist. A lady whom I then much admired, a
very amiable woman, humoured my fancy, and relieved me by saying, "The
first thing you will meet in the other world, will be an elegant copy of
Shakspeare's works presented to you."' Dr. Johnson smiled benignantly at
this, and did not appear to disapprove of the notion.

We went to St. Clement's church again in the afternoon[922], and then
returned and drank tea and coffee in Mrs. Williams's room; Mrs.
Desmoulins doing the honours of the tea-table. I observed that he would
not even look at a proof-sheet of his _Life of Waller_ on Good-Friday.

Mr. Allen, the printer, brought a book on agriculture, which was
printed, and was soon to be published[923]. It was a very strange
performance, the authour having mixed in it his own thoughts upon
various topicks, along with his remarks on ploughing, sowing, and other
farming operations. He seemed to be an absurd profane fellow, and had
introduced in his book many sneers at religion, with equal ignorance and
conceit. Dr. Johnson permitted me to read some passages aloud. One was,
that he resolved to work on Sunday, and did work, but he owned he felt
_some_ weak compunction; and he had this very curious reflection:--'I
was born in the wilds of Christianity, and the briars and thorns still
hang about me.' Dr. Johnson could not help laughing at this ridiculous
image, yet was very angry at the fellow's impiety. 'However, (said he,)
the Reviewers will make him hang himself.' He, however, observed, 'that
formerly there might have been a dispensation obtained for working on
Sunday in the time of harvest[924].' Indeed in ritual observances, were
all the ministers of religion what they should be, and what many of them
are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the Church.

On Saturday, April 14[925], I drank tea with him. He praised the late Mr.
Buncombe[926], of Canterbury, as a pleasing man. 'He used to come to me: I
did not seek much after him. Indeed I never sought much after any body.'
BOSWELL. 'Lord Orrery[927], I suppose.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; I never went to
him but when he sent for me.' BOSWELL. 'Richardson[928]?' JOHNSON. 'Yes,
Sir. But I sought after George Psalmanazar the most. I used to go and
sit with him at an alehouse in the city[929].'

I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his
_seeking after_ a man of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines
Barrington had published his excellent _Observations on the Statutes_,
Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and, having told
him his name, courteously said, 'I have read your book, Sir, with great
pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.' Thus began an
acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson

Talking of a recent seditious delinquent[930], he said, 'They should set
him in the pillory, that he may be punished in a way that would disgrace
him.' I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I
mentioned an instance of a gentleman[931] who I thought was not
dishonoured by it. JOHNSON. 'Ay, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and
strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not willing
to ask a man to their tables who has stood in the pillory.'

The Gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's[932] came in. Johnson
attacked the Americans with intemperate vehemence of abuse. I said
something in their favour; and added, that I was always sorry when he
talked on that subject. This, it seems, exasperated him; though he said
nothing at the time. The cloud was charged with sulphureous vapour,
which was afterwards to burst in thunder.--We talked of a gentleman[933]
who was running out his fortune in London; and I said, 'We must get him
out of it. All his friends must quarrel with him, and that will soon
drive him away.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir; we'll send _you_ to him. If your
company does not drive a man out of his house, nothing will.' This was a
horrible shock, for which there was no visible cause. I afterwards asked
him why he had said so harsh a thing. JOHNSON. 'Because, Sir, you made
me angry about the Americans.' BOSWELL. 'But why did you not take your
revenge directly?' JOHNSON. (smiling) 'Because, Sir, I had nothing
ready. A man cannot strike till he has his weapons.' This was a candid
and pleasant confession.

He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteelly fitted up; and
said, 'Mrs. Thrale sneered when I talked of my having asked you and your
lady to live at my house[934]. I was obliged to tell her, that you would
be in as respectable a situation in my house as in hers. Sir, the
insolence of wealth will creep out.' BOSWELL. 'She has a little both of
the insolence of wealth, and the conceit of parts.' JOHNSON. 'The
insolence of wealth is a wretched thing; but the conceit of parts has
some foundation[935]. To be sure it should not be. But who is without it?'
BOSWELL. 'Yourself, Sir.' JOHNSON. 'Why I play no tricks: I lay no
traps.' BOSWELL. 'No, Sir. You are six feet high, and you only do not

We talked of the numbers of people that sometimes have composed the
household of great families. I mentioned that there were a hundred in
the family of the present Earl of Eglintoune's father. Dr. Johnson
seeming to doubt it, I began to enumerate. 'Let us see: my Lord and my
Lady two.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, if you are to count by twos, you may be
long enough.' BOSWELL. 'Well, but now I add two sons and seven
daughters, and a servant for each, that will make twenty; so we have the
fifth part already.' JOHNSON. 'Very true. You get at twenty pretty
readily; but you will not so easily get further on. We grow to five feet
pretty readily; but it is not so easy to grow to seven.'

On Sunday, April 19, being Easter-day, after the solemnities of the
festival in St. Paul's Church, I visited him, but could not stay to
dinner. I expressed a wish to have the arguments for Christianity always
in readiness, that my religious faith might be as firm and clear as any
proposition whatever, so that I need not be under the least uneasiness,
when it should be attacked. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you cannot answer all
objections. You have demonstration for a First Cause: you see he must be
good as well as powerful, because there is nothing to make him
otherwise, and goodness of itself is preferable. Yet you have against
this, what is very certain, the unhappiness of human life. This,
however, gives us reason to hope for a future state of compensation,
that there may be a perfect system. But of that we were not sure, till
we had a positive revelation.' I told him, that his _Rasselas_ had often
made me unhappy; for it represented the misery of human life so well,
and so convincingly to a thinking mind, that if at any time the
impression wore off, and I felt myself easy, I began to suspect some

On Monday, April 20[936], I found him at home in the morning. We talked of
a gentleman[937] who we apprehended was gradually involving his
circumstances by bad management. JOHNSON. 'Wasting a fortune is
evaporation by a thousand imperceptible means. If it were a stream,
they'd stop it. You must speak to him. It is really miserable. Were he a
gamester, it could be said he had hopes of winning. Were he a bankrupt
in trade, he might have grown rich; but he has neither spirit to spend
nor resolution to spare. He does not spend fast enough to have pleasure
from it. He has the crime of prodigality, and the wretchedness of
parsimony. If a man is killed in a duel, he is killed as many a one has
been killed; but it is a sad thing for a man to lie down and die; to
bleed to death, because he has not fortitude enough to sear the wound,
or even to stitch it up.' I cannot but pause a moment to admire the
fecundity of fancy, and choice of language, which in this instance, and,
indeed, on almost all occasions, he displayed. It was well observed by
Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore, 'The conversation of Johnson is strong
and clear, and may be compared to an antique statue, where every vein
and muscle is distinct and bold. Ordinary conversation resembles an
inferiour cast.'

On Saturday, April 25, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with
the learned Dr. Musgrave[938], Counsellor Leland of Ireland, son to the
historian, Mrs. Cholmondeley, and some more ladies. _The Project_[939], a
new poem, was read to the company by Dr. Musgrave. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it has
no power. Were it not for the well-known names with which it is filled,
it would be nothing: the names carry the poet, not the poet the names.'
MUSGRAVE. 'A temporary poem always entertains us.' JOHNSON. 'So does an
account of the criminals hanged yesterday entertain us.'

He proceeded:--'Demosthenes Taylor, as he was called, (that is, the
Editor of Demosthenes) was the most silent man, the merest statue of a
man that I have ever seen. I once dined in company with him, and all he
said during the whole time was no more than _Richard_. How a man should
say only Richard, it is not easy to imagine. But it was thus: Dr.
Douglas was talking of Dr. Zachary Grey, and ascribing to him something
that was written by Dr. Richard Grey. So, to correct him, Taylor said,
(imitating his affected sententious emphasis and nod,) "_Richard_."'

Mrs. Cholmondeley, in a high flow of spirits, exhibited some lively
sallies of hyperbolical compliment to Johnson, with whom she had been
long acquainted, and was very easy[940]. He was quick in catching the
_manner_ of the moment, and answered her somewhat in the style of the
hero of a romance, 'Madam, you crown me with unfading laurels.'

I happened, I know not how, to say that a pamphlet meant a prose piece.
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. A few sheets of poetry unbound are a pamphlet[941], as
much as a few sheets of prose.' MUSGRAVE. 'A pamphlet may be understood
to mean a poetical piece in Westminster-Hall, that is, in formal
language; but in common language it is understood to mean prose.'
JOHNSON. (and here was one of the many instances of his knowing clearly
and telling exactly how a thing is) 'A pamphlet is understood in common
language to mean prose, only from this, that there is so much more prose
written than poetry; as when we say a _book_, prose is understood for
the same reason, though a book may as well be in poetry as in prose. We
understand what is most general, and we name what is less frequent.'

We talked of a lady's verses on Ireland. MISS REYNOLDS. 'Have you seen
them, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'No, Madam. I have seen a translation from Horace,
by one of her daughters. She shewed it me.' MISS REYNOLDS. 'And how was
it, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Why, very well for a young Miss's verses;--that is
to say, compared with excellence, nothing; but, very well, for the
person who wrote them. I am vexed at being shewn verses in that manner.'
MISS REYNOLDS. 'But if they should be good, why not give them hearty
praise?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, because I have not then got the better of
my bad humour from having been shewn them. You must consider, Madam;
beforehand they may be bad, as well as good. Nobody has a right to put
another under such a difficulty, that he must either hurt the person by
telling the truth, or hurt himself by telling what is not true.'[942]
BOSWELL. 'A man often shews his writings to people of eminence, to
obtain from them, either from their good-nature, or from their not being
able to tell the truth firmly, a commendation, of which he may
afterwards avail himself.' JOHNSON. 'Very true, Sir. Therefore the man,
who is asked by an authour, what he thinks of his work, is put to the
torture, and is not obliged to speak the truth; so that what he says is
not considered as his opinion; yet he has said it, and cannot retract
it; and this authour, when mankind are hunting him with a cannister at
his tail, can say, "I would not have published, had not Johnson, or
Reynolds, or Musgrave, or some other good judge commended the work." Yet
I consider it as a very difficult question in conscience, whether one
should advise a man not to publish a work, if profit be his object; for
the man may say, "Had it not been for you, I should have had the money."
Now you cannot be sure; for you have only your own opinion, and the
publick may think very differently.' SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. 'You must upon
such an occasion have two judgments; one as to the real value of the
work, the other as to what may please the general taste at the time.'
JOHNSON. 'But you can be sure of neither; and therefore I should scruple
much to give a suppressive vote. Both Goldsmith's comedies were once
refused; his first by Garrick,[943] his second by Colman, who was
prevailed on at last by much solicitation, nay, a kind of force, to
bring it on.[944] His _Vicar of Wakefield_ I myself did not think would
have had much success. It was written and sold to a bookseller before
his _Traveller_; but published after; so little expectation had the
bookseller from it. Had it been sold after the _Traveller_, he might
have had twice as much money for it, though sixty guineas was no mean
price. The bookseller had the advantage of Goldsmith's reputation from
_The Traveller_ in the sale, though Goldsmith had it not in selling the
copy.'[945] SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. '_The Beggar's Opera_ affords a proof how
strangely people will differ in opinion about a literary performance.
Burke thinks it has no merit.' JOHNSON. 'It was refused by one of the
houses[946]; but I should have thought it would succeed, not from any
great excellence in the writing, but from the novelty, and the general
spirit and gaiety of the piece, which keeps the audience always
attentive, and dismisses them in good humour.'

We went to the drawing-room, where was a considerable increase of
company. Several of us got round Dr. Johnson, and complained that he
would not give us an exact catalogue of his works, that there might be a
complete edition. He smiled, and evaded our entreaties. That he intended
to do it, I have no doubt, because I have heard him say so; and I have
in my possession an imperfect list, fairly written out, which he
entitles _Historia Studiorum_. I once got from one of his friends a
list, which there was pretty good reason to suppose was accurate, for it
was written down in his presence by this friend, who enumerated each
article aloud, and had some of them mentioned to him by Mr. Levett, in
concert with whom it was made out; and Johnson, who heard all this, did
not contradict it. But when I shewed a copy of this list to him, and
mentioned the evidence for its exactness, he laughed, and said, 'I was
willing to let them go on as they pleased, and never interfered.' Upon
which I read it to him, article by article, and got him positively to
own or refuse; and then, having obtained certainty so far, I got some
other articles confirmed by him directly; and afterwards, from time to
time, made additions under his sanction[947].

His friend Edward Cave having been mentioned, he told us, 'Cave used to
sell ten thousand of _The Gentleman's Magazine_; yet such was then his
minute attention and anxiety that the sale should not suffer the
smallest decrease, that he would name a particular person who he heard
had talked of leaving off the _Magazine_, and would say, 'Let us have
something good next month.'

It was observed, that avarice was inherent in some dispositions.
JOHNSON. 'No man was born a miser, because no man was born to
possession. Every man is born _cupidus_--desirous of getting; but not
_avarus_,--desirous of keeping.' BOSWELL. 'I have heard old Mr. Sheridan
maintain, with much ingenuity, that a complete miser is a happy man; a
miser who gives himself wholly to the one passion of saving.' JOHNSON.
'That is flying in the face of all the world, who have called an
avaricious man a _miser_, because he is miserable[948]. No, Sir; a man who
both spends and saves money is the happiest man, because he has both

The conversation having turned on _Bon-Mots_, he quoted, from one of the
_Ana_, an exquisite instance of flattery in a maid of honour in France,
who being asked by the Queen what o'clock it was, answered, 'What your
Majesty pleases[949].' He admitted that Mr. Burke's classical pun upon Mr.
Wilkes's being carried on the shoulders of the mob,--

'... Numerisque fertur
Lege solutus[950],'

was admirable; and though he was strangely unwilling to allow to that
extraordinary man the talent of wit[951], he also laughed with approbation
at another of his playful conceits; which was, that 'Horace has in one
line given a description of a good desirable manour:--

"Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines[952];"

that is to say, a _modus_[953] as to the tithes and certain _fines_[954].'

He observed, 'A man cannot with propriety speak of himself, except he
relates simple facts; as, "I was at Richmond:" or what depends on
mensuration; as, "I am six feet high." He is sure he has been at
Richmond; he is sure he is six feet high: but he cannot be sure he is
wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censure of a man's
self is oblique praise. It is in order to shew how much he can spare. It
has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of
falsehood.' BOSWELL. 'Sometimes it may proceed from a man's strong
consciousness of his faults being observed. He knows that others would
throw him down, and therefore he had better lye down softly of his own

On Tuesday, April 28, he was engaged to dine at General Paoli's, where,
as I have already observed[955], I was still entertained in elegant
hospitality, and with all the ease and comfort of a home. I called on
him, and accompanied him in a hackney-coach. We stopped first at the
bottom of Hedge-lane, into which he went to leave a letter, 'with good
news for a poor man in distress,' as he told me[956]. I did not question
him particularly as to this. He himself often resembled Lady
Bolingbroke's lively description of Pope; that 'he was _un politique aux
choux et aux raves_.'[957].' He would say, 'I dine to-day in
Grosvenor-square;' this might be with a Duke[958]: or, perhaps, 'I dine
to-day at the other end of the town:' or, 'A gentleman of great eminence
called on me yesterday.' He loved thus to keep things floating in
conjecture: _Omne ignotum pro magnifico est_.[959]. I believe I ventured
to dissipate the cloud, to unveil the mystery, more freely and
frequently than any of his friends. We stopped again at Wirgman's, the
well-known _toy-shop_[960], in St. James's-street, at the corner of St.
James's-place, to which he had been directed, but not clearly, for he
searched about some time, and could not find it at first; and said, 'To
direct one only to a corner shop is _toying_ with one.' I suppose he
meant this as a play upon the word _toy_: it was the first time that I
knew him stoop to such sport[961]. After he had been some time in the
shop, he sent for me to come out of the coach, and help him to choose a
pair of silver buckles, as those he had were too small. Probably this
alteration in dress had been suggested by Mrs. Thrale, by associating
with whom, his external appearance was much improved. He got better
cloaths; and the dark colour, from which he never deviated, was
enlivened by metal buttons. His wigs, too, were much better; and during
their travels in France, he was furnished with a Paris-made wig, of
handsome construction[962]. This choosing of silver buckles was a
negociation: 'Sir (said he), I will not have the ridiculous large ones
now in fashion; and I will give no more than a guinea for a pair.' Such
were the _principles_ of the business; and, after some examination, he
was fitted. As we drove along, I found him in a talking humour, of which
I availed myself. BOSWELL. 'I was this morning in Ridley's shop, Sir;
and was told, that the collection called _Johnsoniana_[963] has sold very
much.' JOHNSON. 'Yet the _Journey to the Hebrides_ has not had a great
sale[964].' BOSWELL. 'That is strange.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir; for in that
book I have told the world a great deal that they did not know before.'

BOSWELL. 'I drank chocolate, Sir, this morning with Mr. Eld; and, to my
no small surprize, found him to be a _Staffordshire Whig_[965], a being
which I did not believe had existed.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, there are rascals
in all countries.' BOSWELL. 'Eld said, a Tory was a creature generated
between a non-juring parson and one's grandmother.' JOHNSON. 'And I have
always said, the first Whig was the Devil[966].' BOSWELL. 'He certainly
was, Sir. The Devil was impatient of subordination; he was the first who
resisted power:--

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven[967]."'

At General Paoli's were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Marchese
Gherardi of Lombardy, and Mr. John Spottiswoode the younger, of
Spottiswoode[968], the solicitor. At this time fears of an invasion were
circulated; to obviate which, Mr. Spottiswoode observed, that Mr. Fraser
the engineer, who had lately come from Dunkirk, said, that the French
had the same fears of us. JOHNSON. 'It is thus that mutual cowardice
keeps us in peace. Were one half of mankind brave, and one half cowards,
the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all brave, they
would lead a very uneasy life; all would be continually fighting: but
being all cowards, we go on very well[969].'

We talked of drinking wine. JOHNSON. 'I require wine, only when I am
alone. I have then often wished for it, and often taken it[970].'
SPOTTISWOODE. 'What, by way of a companion, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'To get rid
of myself, to send myself away. Wine gives great pleasure; and every
pleasure is of itself a good. It is a good, unless counterbalanced by
evil. A man may have a strong reason not to drink wine; and that may be
greater than the pleasure. Wine makes a man better pleased with himself.
I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. Sometimes it
does. But the danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with
himself, he may be growing less pleasing to others[971]. Wine gives a man
nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit; it only animates a man,
and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed.
It only puts in motion what has been locked up in frost. But this may be
good, or it may be bad[972].' SPOTTISWOODE. 'So, Sir, wine is a key which
opens a box; but this box may be either full or empty.' JOHNSON. 'Nay,
Sir, conversation is the key: wine is a pick-lock, which forces open the
box and injures it. A man should cultivate his mind so as to have that
confidence and readiness without wine, which wine gives.' BOSWELL. 'The
great difficulty of resisting wine is from benevolence. For instance, a
good worthy man asks you to taste his wine, which he has had twenty
years in his cellar.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, all this notion about benevolence
arises from a man's imagining himself to be of more importance to
others, than he really is. They don't care a farthing whether he drinks
wine or not.' SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. 'Yes, they do for the time.' JOHNSON.
'For the time!--If they care this minute, they forget it the next. And
as for the good worthy man; how do you know he is good and worthy? No
good and worthy man will insist upon another man's drinking wine. As to
the wine twenty years in the cellar,--of ten men, three say this, merely
because they must say something;--three are telling a lie, when they say
they have had the wine twenty years;--three would rather save the
wine;--one, perhaps, cares. I allow it is something to please one's
company: and people are always pleased with those who partake pleasure
with them. But after a man has brought himself to relinquish the great
personal pleasure which arises from drinking wine, any other
consideration is a trifle. To please others by drinking wine, is
something only, if there be nothing against it. I should, however, be
sorry to offend worthy men:--

"Curst be the verse, how well so e'er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe[973]."'

BOSWELL. 'Curst be the _spring_, the _water_.' JOHNSON. 'But let us
consider what a sad thing it would be, if we were obliged to drink or do
any thing else that may happen to be agreeable to the company where we
are.' LANGTON. 'By the same rule you must join with a gang of
cut-purses.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir: but yet we must do justice to wine; we
must allow it the power it possesses. To make a man pleased with
himself, let me tell you, is doing a very great thing[974];

"_Si patriae volumus, si_ Nobis _vivere cari_[975].'"

I was at this time myself a water-drinker, upon trial, by Johnson's
recommendation[976]. JOHNSON. 'Boswell is a bolder combatant than Sir
Joshua: he argues for wine without the help of wine; but Sir Joshua with
it.' SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. 'But to please one's company is a strong
motive.' JOHNSON. (who, from drinking only water, supposed every body
who drank wine to be elevated,) 'I won't argue any more with you, Sir.
You are too far gone[977].' SIR JOSHUA. 'I should have thought so indeed,
Sir, had I made such a speech as you have now done.' JOHNSON (drawing
himself in, and, I really thought blushing,) 'Nay, don't be angry. I did
not mean to offend you.' SIR JOSHUA. 'At first the taste of wine was
disagreeable to me; but I brought myself to drink it, that I might be
like other people. The pleasure of drinking wine is so connected with
pleasing your company, that altogether there is something of social
goodness in it.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, this is only saying the same thing over
again.' SIR JOSHUA. 'No, this is new.' JOHNSON. 'You put it in new
words, but it is an old thought. This is one of the disadvantages of
wine. It makes a man mistake words for thoughts.' BOSWELL. 'I think it
is a new thought; at least, it is in a new _attitude_.' JOHNSON. 'Nay,
Sir, it is only in a new coat; or an old coat with a new facing. (Then
laughing heartily) It is the old dog in a new doublet.--An extraordinary
instance however may occur where a man's patron will do nothing for him,
unless he will drink: _there_ may be a good reason for drinking.'

I mentioned a nobleman[978], who I believed was really uneasy if his
company would not drink hard. JOHNSON. 'That is from having had people
about him whom he has been accustomed to command.' BOSWELL. 'Supposing I
should be _tete-a-tete_ with him at table.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, there is no
more reason for your drinking with _him_, than his being sober with
_you_.' BOSWELL. 'Why that is true; for it would do him less hurt to be
sober, than it would do me to get drunk.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir; and from
what I have heard of him, one would not wish to sacrifice himself to
such a man. If he must always have somebody to drink with him, he should
buy a slave, and then he would be sure to have it. They who submit to
drink as another pleases, make themselves his slaves.' BOSWELL. 'But,
Sir, you will surely make allowance for the duty of hospitality. A
gentleman who loves drinking, comes to visit me.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, a man
knows whom he visits; he comes to the table of a sober man.' BOSWELL.
'But, Sir, you and I should not have been so well received in the
Highlands and Hebrides, if I had not drunk with our worthy friends. Had
I drunk water only as you did, they would not have been so cordial.'
JOHNSON. 'Sir William Temple mentions that in his travels through the
Netherlands he had two or three gentlemen with him; and when a bumper
was necessary, he put it on _them_[979]. Were I to travel again through
the islands, I would have Sir Joshua with me to take the bumpers.'
BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, let me put a case. Suppose Sir Joshua should take a
jaunt into Scotland; he does me the honour to pay me a visit at my house
in the country; I am overjoyed at seeing him; we are quite by ourselves,
shall I unsociably and churlishly let him sit drinking by himself? No,
no, my dear Sir Joshua, you shall not be treated so, I _will_ take a
bottle with you.'

The celebrated Mrs. Rudd being mentioned. JOHNSON. 'Fifteen years ago I
should have gone to see her.' SPOTTISWOODE. 'Because she was fifteen
years younger?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; but now they have a trick of putting
every thing into the newspapers[980].'

He begged of General Paoli to repeat one of the introductory stanzas of
the first book of Tasso's _Jerusalem_, which he did, and then Johnson
found fault with the simile of sweetening the edges of a cup for a
child, being transferred from Lucretius into an epick poem[981]. The
General said he did not imagine Homer's poetry was so ancient as is
supposed, because he ascribes to a Greek colony circumstances of
refinement not found in Greece itself at a later period, when Thucydides
wrote. JOHNSON. 'I recollect but one passage quoted by Thucydides from
Homer, which is not to be found in our copies of Homer's works; I am for
the antiquity of Homer, and think that a Grecian colony, by being nearer
Persia, might be more refined than the mother country.'

On Wednesday, April 29, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, where
were Lord Binning, Dr. Robertson the historian, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and
the Honourable Mrs. Boscawen, widow of the Admiral, and mother of the
present Viscount Falmouth; of whom, if it be not presumptuous in me to
praise her, I would say, that her manners are the most agreeable, and
her conversation the best, of any lady with whom I ever had the
happiness to be acquainted. Before Johnson came we talked a good deal of
him; Ramsay said he had always found him a very polite man, and that he
treated him with great respect, which he did very sincerely. I said I
worshipped him. ROBERTSON. 'But some of you spoil him; you should not
worship him; you should worship no man.' BOSWELL. 'I cannot help
worshipping him, he is so much superiour to other men.' ROBERTSON. 'In
criticism, and in wit in conversation, he is no doubt very excellent;
but in other respects he is not above other men; he will believe any
thing[982], and will strenuously defend the most minute circumstance
connected with the Church of England.' BOSWELL. 'Believe me, Doctor, you
are much mistaken as to this; for when you talk with him calmly in
private[983], he is very liberal in his way of thinking.' ROBERTSON. 'He
and I have been always very gracious[984]; the first time I met him was
one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky altercation
with Adam Smith[985], to whom he had been so rough, that Strahan, after
Smith was gone, had remonstrated with him, and told him that I was
coming soon, and that he was uneasy to think that he might behave in the
same manner to me. "No, no, Sir, (said Johnson) I warrant you Robertson
and I shall do very well." Accordingly he was gentle and good-humoured,
and courteous with me the whole evening; and he has been so upon every
occasion that we have met since. I have often said (laughing) that I
have been in a great measure indebted to Smith for my good reception.'
BOSWELL. 'His power of reasoning is very strong, and he has a peculiar
art of drawing characters, which is as rare as good portrait painting.'
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. 'He is undoubtedly admirable in this; but, in order
to mark the characters which he draws, he overcharges them, and gives
people more than they really have, whether of good or bad.'

No sooner did he, of whom we had been thus talking so easily, arrive,
than we were all as quiet as a school upon the entrance of the
head-master[986]; and were very soon set down to a table covered with such
variety of good things, as contributed not a little to dispose him to be

RAMSAY. 'I am old enough to have been a contemporary of Pope. His poetry
was highly admired in his life-time, more a great deal than after his
death[987].' JOHNSON. 'Sir, it has not been less admired since his death;
no authours ever had so much fame in their own life-time as Pope and
Voltaire; and Pope's poetry has been as much admired since his death as
during his life; it has only not been as much talked of, but that is
owing to its being now more distant, and people having other writings to
talk of. Virgil is less talked of than Pope, and Homer is less talked of
than Virgil; but they are not less admired. We must read what the world
reads at the moment. It has been maintained that this superfoetation,
this teeming of the press in modern times, is prejudicial to good
literature, because it obliges us to read so much of what is of
inferiour value, in order to be in the fashion; so that better works are
neglected for want of time, because a man will have more gratification
of his vanity in conversation, from having read modern books, than from
having read the best works of antiquity. But it must be considered, that
we have now more knowledge generally diffused; all our ladies read now,
which is a great extension[988]. Modern writers are the moons of
literature; they shine with reflected light, with light borrowed from
the ancients. Greece appears to me to be the fountain of knowledge; Rome
of elegance.' RAMSAY. 'I suppose Homer's _Iliad_ to be a collection of
pieces which had been written before his time. I should like to see a
translation of it in poetical prose like the book of Ruth or Job.'
ROBERTSON. 'Would you, Dr. Johnson, who are master of the English
language, but try your hand upon a part of it.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, you could
not read it without the pleasure of verse[989].'

We talked of antiquarian researches. JOHNSON. 'All that is really
_known_ of the ancient state of Britain is contained in a few pages. We
_can_ know no more than what the old writers have told us; yet what
large books have we upon it, the whole of which, excepting such parts as
are taken from those old writers, is all a dream, such as Whitaker's
_Manchester_[990]. I have heard Henry's _History of Britain_ well spoken
of: I am told it is carried on in separate divisions, as the civil, the
military, the religious history: I wish much to have one branch well
done, and that is the history of manners, of common life.' ROBERTSON.
'Henry should have applied his attention to that alone, which is enough
for any man; and he might have found a great deal scattered in various
books, had he read solely with that view. Henry erred in not selling his
first volume at a moderate price to the booksellers, that they might
have pushed him on till he had got reputation[991]. I sold my _History of
Scotland_ at a moderate price[992], as a work by which the booksellers
might either gain or not; and Cadell has told me that Millar and he have
got six thousand pounds by it. I afterwards received a much higher price
for my writings. An authour should sell his first work for what the
booksellers will give, till it shall appear whether he is an authour of
merit, or, which is the same thing as to purchase-money, an authour who
pleases the publick.'

Dr. Robertson expatiated on the character of a certain nobleman[993]; that
he was one of the strongest-minded men that ever lived; that he would
sit in company quite sluggish, while there was nothing to call forth his
intellectual vigour; but the moment that any important subject was
started, for instance, how this country is to be defended against a
French invasion, he would rouse himself, and shew his extraordinary
talents with the most powerful ability and animation. JOHNSON. 'Yet this
man cut his own throat. The true strong and sound mind is the mind that
can embrace equally great things and small. Now I am told the King of
Prussia will say to a servant, "Bring me a bottle of such a wine, which
came in such a year; it lies in such a corner of the cellars." I would
have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things.' He said
to me afterwards, when we were by ourselves, 'Robertson was in a mighty
romantick humour[994], he talked of one whom he did not know; but I
_downed_[995] him with the King of Prussia.' 'Yes, Sir, (said I,) you
threw a _bottle_ at his head.'

An ingenious gentleman was mentioned, concerning whom both Robertson and
Ramsay agreed that he had a constant firmness of mind; for after a
laborious day, and amidst a multiplicity of cares and anxieties, he
would sit down with his sisters and be quite cheerful and good-humoured.
Such a disposition, it was observed, was a happy gift of nature.
JOHNSON. 'I do not think so; a man has from nature a certain portion of
mind; the use he makes of it depends upon his own free will. That a man
has always the same firmness of mind I do not say; because every man
feels his mind less firm at one time than another; but I think a man's
being in a good or bad humour depends upon his will.' I, however, could
not help thinking that a man's humour is often uncontroulable by his

Johnson harangued against drinking wine[996]. 'A man (said he) may choose
whether he will have abstemiousness and knowledge, or claret and
ignorance.' Dr. Robertson, (who is very companionable,) was beginning to
dissent as to the proscription of claret[997]. JOHNSON: (with a placid
smile.) 'Nay, Sir, you shall not differ with me; as I have said that the
man is most perfect who takes in the most things, I am for knowledge and
claret.' ROBERTSON: (holding a glass of generous claret in his hand.)
'Sir, I can only drink your health.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I should be sorry if
_you_ should be ever in such a state as to be able to do nothing more.'
ROBERTSON. 'Dr. Johnson, allow me to say, that in one respect I have the
advantage of you; when you were in Scotland you would not come to hear
any of our preachers[998], whereas, when I am here, I attend your publick
worship without scruple, and indeed, with great satisfaction.' JOHNSON.
'Why, Sir, that is not so extraordinary: the King of Siam sent
ambassadors to Louis the Fourteenth; but Louis the Fourteenth sent none
to the King of Siam[999].'

Here my friend for once discovered a want of knowledge or forgetfulness;
for Louis the Fourteenth did send an embassy to the King of Siam, and
the Abbe Choisi, who was employed in it, published an account of it in
two volumes[1000].

Next day, Thursday, April 30, I found him at home by himself. JOHNSON.
'Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner. I love Ramsay. You will
not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more
information, and more elegance, than in Ramsay's.' BOSWELL. 'What I
admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young.' JOHNSON. 'Why, yes,
Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is
nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I
have no more of it than at twenty-eight[1001].' BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, would
not you wish to know old age? He who is never an old man, does not know
the whole of human life; for old age is one of the divisions of it.'
JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, what talk is this?' BOSWELL. 'I mean, Sir, the
Sphinx's description of it;--morning, noon, and night. I would know
night, as well as morning and noon.' JOHNSON. 'What, Sir, would you know
what it is to feel the evils of old age? Would you have the gout? Would
you have decrepitude?'--Seeing him heated, I would not argue any
farther; but I was confident that I was in the right. I would, in due
time, be a Nestor, an elder of the people; and there _should_ be some
difference between the conversation of twenty-eight and sixty-eight. A
grave picture should not be gay. There is a serene, solemn, placid old
age. JOHNSON. 'Mrs. Thrale's mother said of me what flattered me much. A
clergyman was complaining of want of society in the country where he
lived; and said, "They talk of _runts_;" (that is, young cows). "Sir,
(said Mrs. Salusbury,) Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts:"
meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation,
whatever it was.' He added, 'I think myself a very polite man[1002].'

On Saturday, May 2, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where
there was a very large company, and a great deal of conversation; but
owing to some circumstance which I cannot now recollect, I have no
record of any part of it, except that there were several people there by
no means of the Johnsonian school; so that less attention was paid to
him than usual, which put him out of humour; and upon some imaginary
offence from me, he attacked me with such rudeness, that I was vexed and
angry, because it gave those persons an opportunity of enlarging upon
his supposed ferocity, and ill treatment of his best friends. I was so
much hurt, and had my pride so much roused, that I kept away from him
for a week; and, perhaps, might have kept away much longer, nay, gone to
Scotland without seeing him again, had not we fortunately met and been
reconciled. To such unhappy chances are human friendships liable[1003].

On Friday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Langton's. I was reserved and
silent, which I suppose he perceived, and might recollect the cause.
After dinner when Mr. Langton was called out of the room, and we were by
ourselves, he drew his chair near to mine, and said, in a tone of
conciliating courtesy[1004], 'Well, how have you done?' BOSWELL. 'Sir,
you have made me very uneasy by your behaviour to me when we were last
at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. You know, my dear Sir, no man has a greater
respect and affection for you, or would sooner go to the end of the
world to serve you. Now to treat me so--.' He insisted that I had
interrupted him, which I assured him was not the case; and proceeded--
'But why treat me so before people who neither love you nor me?'
JOHNSON. 'Well, I am sorry for it. I'll make it up to you twenty
different ways, as you please.' BOSWELL. 'I said to-day to Sir Joshua,
when he observed that you _tossed_[1005] me sometimes--I don't care how
often, or how high he tosses me, when only friends are present, for then
I fall upon soft ground: but I do not like falling on stones, which is
the case when enemies are present.--I think this a pretty good image,
Sir.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is one of the happiest I have ever heard.'

The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any
time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other
hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in hearty
laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our
friends[1006]. BOSWELL. 'Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to
laugh at a man to his face?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, that depends upon the
man and the thing. If it is a slight man, and a slight thing, you may;
for you take nothing valuable from him.'

He said, 'I read yesterday Dr. Blair's sermon[1007] on Devotion, from
the text "_Cornelius, a devout man_[1008]." His doctrine is the best
limited, the best expressed: there is the most warmth without fanaticism,
the most rational transport. There is one part of it which I disapprove,
and I'd have him correct it; which is, that "he who does not feel joy in
religion is far from the kingdom of heaven!" There are many good men
whose fear of GOD predominates over their love. It may discourage. It
was rashly said. A noble sermon it is indeed. I wish Blair would come
over to the Church of England.'

When Mr. Langton returned to us, the 'flow of talk' went on. An eminent
author[1009] being mentioned;--JOHNSON. 'He is not a pleasant man. His
conversation is neither instructive nor brilliant. He does not talk as
if impelled by any fulness of knowledge or vivacity of imagination. His
conversation is like that of any other sensible man. He talks with no
wish either to inform or to hear, but only because he thinks it does not
become ---- to sit in a company and say nothing.'

Mr. Langton having repeated the anecdote of Addison having distinguished
between his powers in conversation and in writing, by saying 'I have
only nine-pence in my pocket; but I can draw for a thousand
pounds[1010];'--JOHNSON. 'He had not that retort ready, Sir; he had
prepared it before-hand.' LANGTON: (turning to me.) 'A fine surmise. Set
a thief to catch a thief.'

Johnson called the East-Indians barbarians. BOSWELL. 'You will except
the Chinese, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir.' BOSWELL. 'Have they not arts?'
JOHNSON. 'They have pottery.' BOSWELL. 'What do you say to the written
characters of their language? 'JOHNSON. 'Sir, they have not an alphabet.
They have not been able to form what all other nations have formed.'
BOSWELL. 'There is more learning in their language than in any other,
from the immense number of their characters.' JOHNSON. 'It is only more
difficult from its rudeness; as there is more labour in hewing down a
tree with a stone than with an axe.'

He said, 'I have been reading Lord Kames's _Sketches of the History of
Man_. In treating of severity of punishment, he mentions that of Madame
Lapouchin, in Russia, but he does not give it fairly; for I have looked
at _Chappe D'Auteroche_[1011], from whom he has taken it. He stops where
it is said that the spectators thought her innocent, and leaves out what
follows; that she nevertheless was guilty. Now this is being as culpable
as one can conceive, to misrepresent fact in a book, and for what
motive? It is like one of those lies which people tell, one cannot see
why. The woman's life was spared; and no punishment was too great for
the favourite of an Empress who had conspired to dethrone her mistress.'
BOSWELL. 'He was only giving a picture of the lady in her sufferings.'
JOHNSON. 'Nay, don't endeavour to palliate this. Guilt is a principal
feature in the picture. Kames is puzzled with a question that puzzled me
when I was a very young man. Why is it that the interest of money is
lower, when money is plentiful; for five pounds has the same proportion
of value to a hundred pounds when money is plentiful, as when it is
scarce? A lady explained it to me. "It is (said she) because when money
is plentiful there are so many more who have money to lend, that they
bid down one another. Many have then a hundred pounds; and one
says,--Take mine rather than another's, and you shall have it at four
_per cent_."' BOSWELL. 'Does Lord Kames decide the question?' JOHNSON.
'I think he leaves it as he found it[1012].' BOSWELL. 'This must have
been an extraordinary lady who instructed you, Sir. May I ask who she
was?' JOHNSON. 'Molly Aston[1013], Sir, the sister of those ladies with
whom you dined at Lichfield[1014]. I shall be at home to-morrow.'
BOSWELL. 'Then let us dine by ourselves at the Mitre, to keep up the
old custom, "the custom of the manor," the custom of the mitre.'
JOHNSON. 'Sir, so it shall be.'

On Saturday, May 9, we fulfilled our purpose of dining by ourselves at
the Mitre, according to old custom. There was, on these occasions, a
little circumstance of kind attention to Mrs. Williams, which must not
be omitted. Before coming out, and leaving her to dine alone, he gave
her choice of a chicken, a sweetbread, or any other little nice
thing, which was carefully sent to her from the tavern, ready-drest.

Our conversation to-day, I know not how, turned, (I think for the only
time at any length, during our long acquaintance,) upon the sensual
intercourse between the sexes, the delight of which he ascribed chiefly
to imagination. 'Were it not for imagination, Sir, (said he,) a man
would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a Duchess. But such
is the adventitious charm of fancy, that we find men who have violated
the best principles of society, and ruined their fame and their fortune,
that they might possess a woman of rank.' It would not be proper to
record the particulars of such a conversation in moments of unreserved
frankness, when nobody was present on whom it could have any hurtful
effect. That subject, when philosophically treated, may surely employ
the mind in as curious discussion, and as innocently, as anatomy;
provided that those who do treat it keep clear of inflammatory

'From grave to gay, from lively to severe[1015],'--we were soon engaged
in very different speculation; humbly and reverently considering and
wondering at the universal mystery of all things, as our imperfect
faculties can now judge of them. 'There are (said he) innumerable
questions to which the inquisitive mind can in this state receive no
answer: Why do you and I exist? Why was this world created? Since it was
to be created, why was it not created sooner?'

On Sunday, May 10, I supped with him at Mr. Hoole's, with Sir Joshua
Reynolds. I have neglected the memorial of this evening, so as to
remember no more of it than two particulars; one, that he strenuously
opposed an argument by Sir Joshua, that virtue was preferable to vice,
considering this life only; and that a man would be virtuous were it
only to preserve his character: and that he expressed much wonder at the
curious formation of the bat, a mouse with wings; saying, that 'it was
almost as strange a thing in physiology, as if the fabulous dragon could
be seen.'

On Tuesday, May 12, I waited on the Earl of Marchmont, to know if his
Lordship would favour Dr. Johnson with information concerning Pope,
whose Life he was about to write. Johnson had not flattered himself with
the hopes of receiving any civility from this nobleman; for he said to
me, when I mentioned Lord Marchmont as one who could tell him a great
deal about Pope,--'Sir, he will tell _me_ nothing.' I had the honour of
being known to his Lordship, and applied to him of myself, without being
commissioned by Johnson. His Lordship behaved in the most polite and
obliging manner, promised to tell all he recollected about Pope, and was
so very courteous as to say, 'Tell Dr. Johnson I have a great respect
for him, and am ready to shew it in any way I can. I am to be in the
city to-morrow, and will call at his house as I return.' His Lordship
however asked, 'Will he write the Lives of the Poets impartially? He was
the first that brought Whig and Tory into a Dictionary[1016]. And what do
you think of his definition of Excise? Do you know the history of his
aversion to the word _transpire_[1017]?' Then taking down the folio
_Dictionary_, he shewed it with this censure on its secondary sense: 'To
escape from secrecy to notice; a sense lately innovated from France,
without necessity[1018].' The truth was Lord Bolingbroke, who left the
Jacobites, first used it; therefore, it was to be condemned. 'He should
have shewn what word would do for it, if it was unnecessary.' I
afterwards put the question to Johnson: 'Why, Sir, (said he,) _get
abroad_.' BOSWELL. 'That, Sir, is using two words[1019].' JOHNSON. 'Sir,
there is no end of this. You may as well insist to have a word for old
age.' BOSWELL. 'Well, Sir, _Senectus_.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, to insist
always that there should be one word to express a thing in English,
because there is one in another language, is to change the language.'

I availed myself of this opportunity to hear from his Lordship many
particulars both of Pope and Lord Bolingbroke, which I have in

I proposed to Lord Marchmont that he should revise Johnson's _Life of
Pope_: 'So (said his Lordship) you would put me in a dangerous
situation. You know he knocked down Osborne the bookseller[1021].'

Elated with the success of my spontaneous exertion to procure material
and respectable aid to Johnson for his very favourite work, _The Lives
of the Poets_, I hastened down to Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, where he
now was, that I might insure his being at home next day; and after
dinner, when I thought he would receive the good news in the best
humour, I announced it eagerly: 'I have been at work for you to-day,
Sir. I have been with Lord Marchmont. He bade me tell you he has a great
respect for you, and will call on you to-morrow at one o'clock, and
communicate all he knows about Pope.'--Here I paused, in full
expectation that he would be pleased with this intelligence, would
praise my active merit, and would be alert to embrace such an offer from
a nobleman. But whether I had shewn an over-exultation, which provoked
his spleen; or whether he was seized with a suspicion that I had
obtruded him on Lord Marchmont, and humbled him too much; or whether
there was any thing more than an unlucky fit of ill-humour, I know not;
but, to my surprize, the result was,--JOHNSON. 'I shall not be in town
to-morrow. I don't care to know about Pope.' MRS. THRALE: (surprized as
I was, and a little angry.) 'I suppose, Sir, Mr. Boswell thought, that
as you are to write _Pope's Life_, you would wish to know about him.'
JOHNSON. 'Wish! why yes. If it rained knowledge I'd hold out my hand;
but I would not give myself the trouble to go in quest of it.' There was
no arguing with him at the moment. Some time afterwards he said, 'Lord
Marchmont will call on me, and then I shall call on Lord Marchmont.' Mr.
Thrale was uneasy at his unaccountable caprice[1022]; and told me, that
if I did not take care to bring about a meeting between Lord Marchmont
and him, it would never take place, which would be a great pity. I sent
a card to his Lordship, to be left at Johnson's house, acquainting him,
that Dr. Johnson could not be in town next day, but would do himself the
honour of waiting on him at another time. I give this account fairly, as
a specimen of that unhappy temper with which this great and good man had
occasionally to struggle, from something morbid in his constitution. Let
the most censorious of my readers suppose himself to have a violent fit
of the tooth-ach, or to have received a severe stroke on the shin-bone,
and when in such a state to be asked a question; and if he has any
candour, he will not be surprized at the answers which Johnson sometimes
gave in moments of irritation, which, let me assure them, is exquisitely
painful. But it must not be erroneously supposed that he was, in the
smallest degree, careless concerning any work which he undertook, or
that he was generally thus peevish. It will be seen, that in the
following year he had a very agreeable interview with Lord Marchmont, at
his Lordship's house[1023]; and this very afternoon he soon forgot any
fretfulness, and fell into conversation as usual.

I mentioned a reflection having been thrown out against four Peers for
having presumed to rise in opposition to the opinion of the twelve
Judges, in a cause in the House of Lords[1024], as if that were indecent.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, there is no ground for censure. The Peers are Judges
themselves; and supposing them really to be of a different opinion, they
might from duty be in opposition to the Judges, who were there only to
be consulted.'

In this observation I fully concurred with him; for, unquestionably, all
the Peers are vested with the highest judicial powers; and when they are
confident that they understand a cause, are not obliged, nay ought not
to acquiesce in the opinion of the ordinary Law Judges, or even in that
of those who from their studies and experience are called the Law Lords.
I consider the Peers in general as I do a Jury, who ought to listen with
respectful attention to the sages of the law; but, if after hearing
them, they have a firm opinion of their own, are bound, as honest men,
to decide accordingly. Nor is it so difficult for them to understand
even law questions, as is generally thought; provided they will bestow
sufficient attention upon them. This observation was made by my honoured
relation the late Lord Cathcart, who had spent his life in camps and
courts; yet assured me, that he could form a clear opinion upon most of
the causes that came before the House of Lords, 'as they were so well
enucleated[1025] in the Cases.'

Mrs. Thrale told us, that a curious clergyman of our acquaintance had
discovered a licentious stanza, which Pope had originally in his
_Universal Prayer_, before the stanza,

'What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns us[1026] not to do,' &c.

It was thus:--

'Can sins of moment claim the rod
Of everlasting fires?
And that offend great Nature's GOD,
Which Nature's self inspires[1027]?'

and that Dr. Johnson observed, 'it had been borrowed from _Guarini_.'
There are, indeed, in _Pastor Fido_, many such flimsy superficial
reasonings, as that in the last two lines of this stanza. BOSWELL. 'In
that stanza of Pope's, "_rod of fires_" is certainly a bad metaphor.'
MRS. THRALE. 'And "sins of _moment_" is a faulty expression; for its
true import is _momentous_, which cannot be intended.' JOHNSON. 'It must
have been written "of _moments_." Of _moment_, is _momentous_; of
_moments_, _momentary_. I warrant you, however, Pope wrote this stanza,
and some friend struck it out. Boileau wrote some such thing, and
Arnaud[1028] struck it out, saying, "_Vous gagnerez deux ou trois impies,
et perdrez je ne scais combien des honnettes gens_." These fellows want
to say a daring thing, and don't know how to go about it. Mere poets
know no more of fundamental principles than--.' Here he was interrupted
somehow. Mrs. Thrale mentioned Dryden. JOHNSON. 'He puzzled himself
about predestination.--How foolish was it in Pope to give all his
friendship to Lords, who thought they honoured him by being with him;
and to choose such Lords as Burlington, and Cobham, and Bolingbroke!
Bathurst was negative, a pleasing man; and I have heard no ill of
Marchmont; and then always saying, "I do not value you for being a
Lord;" which was a sure proof that he did[1029]. I never say, I do not
value Boswell more for being born to an estate, because I do not care.'
BOSWELL. 'Nor for being a Scotchman?' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, I do value you
more for being a Scotchman. You are a Scotchman without the faults of a
Scotchman. You would not have been so valuable as you are, had you not
been a Scotchman.'

Talking of divorces, I asked if Othello's doctrine was not plausible?

'He that is robb'd, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know't, and he's not robb'd at all[1030].'

Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale joined against this. JOHNSON. 'Ask any man
if he'd wish not to know of such an injury.' BOSWELL. 'Would you tell
your friend to make him unhappy?' JOHNSON. 'Perhaps, Sir, I should not;
but that would be from prudence on my own account. A man would tell his
father.' BOSWELL. 'Yes; because he would not have spurious children to
get any share of the family inheritance.' MRS. THRALE. 'Or he would tell
his brother.' BOSWELL. 'Certainly his _elder_ brother.' JOHNSON. 'You
would tell your friend of a woman's infamy, to prevent his marrying a
whore: there is the same reason to tell him of his wife's infidelity,
when he is married, to prevent the consequences of imposition. It is a
breach of confidence not to tell a friend.' BOSWELL. 'Would you tell
Mr.----[1031]?' (naming a gentleman who assuredly was not in the least
danger of such a miserable disgrace, though married to a fine woman.)
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; because it would do no good: he is so sluggish, he'd
never go to parliament and get through a divorce.'

He said of one of our friends[1032], 'He is ruining himself without
pleasure. A man who loses at play, or who runs out his fortune at court,
makes his estate less, in hopes of making it bigger: (I am sure of this
word, which was often used by him:) but it is a sad thing to pass
through the quagmire of parsimony, to the gulph of ruin. To pass over
the flowery path of extravagance is very well.'

Amongst the numerous prints pasted[1033] on the walls of the dining-room
at Streatham, was Hogarth's 'Modern Midnight Conversation.' I asked him
what he knew of Parson Ford[1034], who makes a conspicuous figure in the
riotous group. JOHNSON. 'Sir, he was my acquaintance and relation, my
mother's nephew. He had purchased a living in the country, but not
simoniacally. I never saw him but in the country. I have been told he
was a man of great parts; very profligate, but I never heard he was
impious.' BOSWELL. 'Was there not a story of his ghost having appeared?'
JOHNSON. 'Sir, it was believed. A waiter at the Hummums[1035], in which
house Ford died, had been absent for some time, and returned, not
knowing that Ford was dead. Going down to the cellar, according to the
story, he met him; going down again he met him a second time. When he
came up, he asked some of the people of the house what Ford could be
doing there. They told him Ford was dead. The waiter took a fever, in
which he lay for some time. When he recovered, he said he had a message
to deliver to some women from Ford; but he was not to tell what, or to
whom. He walked out; he was followed; but somewhere about St. Paul's
they lost him. He came back, and said he had delivered the message, and
the women exclaimed, "Then we are all undone!" Dr. Pellet, who was not a
credulous man, inquired into the truth of this story, and he said, the
evidence was irresistible. My wife went to the Hummums; (it is a place
where people get themselves cupped.) I believe she went with intention
to hear about this story of Ford. At first they were unwilling to tell
her; but, after they had talked to her, she came away satisfied that it
was true. To be sure the man had a fever; and this vision may have been
the beginning of it. But if the message to the women, and their
behaviour upon it, were true as related, there was something
supernatural. That rests upon his word; and there it remains.'

After Mrs. Thrale was gone to bed, Johnson and I sat up late. We resumed
Sir Joshua Reynolds's argument on the preceding Sunday, that a man would
be virtuous though he had no other motive than to preserve his
character. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is not true: for as to this world vice does
not hurt a man's character.' BOSWELL. 'Yes, Sir, debauching a friend's
wife will.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. Who thinks the worse of ----[1036] for it?'
BOSWELL. 'Lord ----[1037] was not his friend.' JOHNSON. 'That is only a
circumstance, Sir; a slight distinction. He could not get into the house
but by Lord ----. A man is chosen Knight of the shire, not the less for
having debauched ladies.' BOSWELL. 'What, Sir, if he debauched the
ladies of gentlemen in the county, will not there be a general
resentment against him?' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. He will lose those
particular gentlemen; but the rest will not trouble their heads about
it.' (warmly.) BOSWELL. 'Well, Sir, I cannot think so.' JOHNSON. 'Nay,
Sir, there is no talking with a man who will dispute what every body
knows, (angrily.) Don't you know this?' BOSWELL. 'No, Sir; and I wish to
think better of your country than you represent it. I knew in Scotland a
gentleman obliged to leave it for debauching a lady; and in one of our
counties an Earl's brother lost his election, because he had debauched
the lady of another Earl in that county, and destroyed the peace of a
noble family.'

Still he would not yield. He proceeded: 'Will you not allow, Sir, that
vice does not hurt a man's character so as to obstruct his prosperity in
life, when you know that ----[1038] was loaded with wealth and honours;
a man who had acquired his fortune by such crimes, that his consciousness
of them impelled him to cut his own throat.' BOSWELL. 'You will
recollect, Sir, that Dr. Robertson said, he cut his throat because he
was weary of still life; little things not being sufficient to move his
great mind.' JOHNSON, (very angry.) 'Nay, Sir, what stuff is this! You
had no more this opinion after Robertson said it, than before. I know
nothing more offensive than repeating what one knows to be foolish
things, by way of continuing a dispute, to see what a man will
answer,--to make him your butt!' (angrier still.) BOSWELL. 'My dear Sir,
I had no such intentions as you seem to suspect; I had not indeed. Might
not this nobleman have felt every thing "weary, stale, flat, and
unprofitable[1039]," as Hamlet says?' JOHNSON. 'Nay, if you are to bring
in gabble, I'll talk no more. I will not, upon my honour.'--My readers
will decide upon this dispute.

Next morning I stated to Mrs. Thrale at breakfast, before he came down,
the dispute of last night as to the influence of character upon success
in life. She said he was certainly wrong; and told me, that a Baronet
lost an election in Wales, because he had debauched the sister of a
gentleman in the county, whom he made one of his daughters invite as her
companion at his seat in the country, when his lady and his other
children were in London. But she would not encounter Johnson upon the

I staid all this day with him at Streatham. He talked a great deal, in
very good humour.

Looking at Messrs. Dilly's splendid edition of Lord Chesterfield's
miscellaneous works, he laughed, and said, 'Here now are two speeches
ascribed to him, both of which were written by me: and the best of it
is, they have found out that one is like Demosthenes, and the other like

He censured Lord Kames's _Sketches of the History of Man_[1041], for
misrepresenting Clarendon's account of the appearance of Sir George
Villiers's ghost, as if Clarendon were weakly credulous; when the truth
is, that Clarendon only says, that the story was upon a better
foundation of credit, than usually such discourses are founded upon[1042];
nay, speaks thus of the person who was reported to have seen the vision,
'the poor man, _if he had been at all waking_;' which Lord Kames has
omitted. He added, 'in this book it is maintained that virtue is natural
to man, and that if we would but consult our own hearts we should be
virtuous.[1043] Now after consulting our own hearts all we can, and with
all the helps we have, we find how few of us are virtuous. This is
saying a thing which all mankind know not to be true.' BOSWELL. 'Is not
modesty natural?' JOHNSON. 'I cannot say, Sir, as we find no people
quite in a state of nature; but I think the more they are taught, the
more modest they are. The French are a gross, ill-bred, untaught people;
a lady there will spit on the floor and rub it with her foot.[1044] What
I gained by being in France was, learning to be better satisfied with my
own country. Time may be employed to more advantage from nineteen to
twenty-four almost in any way than in travelling; when you set
travelling against mere negation, against doing nothing, it is better to
be sure; but how much more would a young man improve were he to study
during those years. Indeed, if a young man is wild, and must run after
women and bad company, it is better this should be done abroad, as, on
his return, he can break off such connections, and begin at home a new
man, with a character to form, and acquaintances to make[1045]. How
little does travelling supply to the conversation of any man who has
travelled; how little to Beauclerk!' BOSWELL. 'What say you to
Lord ----?' JOHNSON. 'I never but once heard him talk of what he had
seen, and that was of a large serpent in one of the Pyramids of Egypt.'
BOSWELL. 'Well, I happened to hear him tell the same thing, which made
me mention him[1046].'

I talked of a country life. JOHNSON. 'Were I to live in the country, I
would not devote myself to the acquisition of popularity; I would live
in a much better way, much more happily; I would have my time at my own
command[1047].' BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, is it not a sad thing to be at a
distance from all our literary friends?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, you will by and
by have enough of this conversation, which now delights you so much.'

As he was a zealous friend of subordination, he was at all times
watchful to repress the vulgar cant against the manners of the great;
[1049] High people, Sir, (said he,) are the best; take a hundred ladies
of quality, you'll find them better wives, better mothers, more willing
to sacrifice their own pleasure to their children than a hundred other
women. Tradeswomen (I mean the wives of tradesmen) in the city, who are
worth from ten to fifteen thousand pounds, are the worst creatures upon
the earth, grossly ignorant, and thinking viciousness fashionable.
Farmers, I think, are often worthless fellows[1050]. Few lords will
cheat; and, if they do, they'll be ashamed of it: farmers cheat and are
not ashamed of it: they have all the sensual vices too of the nobility,
with cheating into the bargain. There is as much fornication and adultery
among farmers as amongst noblemen.' BOSWELL. 'The notion of the world,
Sir, however is, that the morals of women of quality are worse than
those in lower stations.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, the licentiousness of one
woman of quality makes more noise than that of a number of women in
lower stations; then, Sir, you are to consider the malignity of women in
the city against women of quality, which will make them believe any
thing of them, such as that they call their coachmen to bed. No, Sir, so
far as I have observed, the higher in rank, the richer ladies are, they
are the better instructed and the more virtuous.'

This year the Reverend Mr. Horne published his _Letter to Mr. Dunning on
the English Particle_; Johnson read it, and though not treated in it
with sufficient respect[1051], he had candour enough to say to Mr. Seward,
'Were I to make a new edition of my _Dictionary_, I would adopt
several[1052] of Mr. Horne's etymologies; I hope they did not put the dog
in the pillory for his libel; he has too much literature for that[1053].'

On Saturday, May 16, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's with Mr.
Langton, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Higgins, and some others. I regret very
feelingly every instance of my remissness in recording his
_memorabilia_; I am afraid it is the condition of humanity (as Mr.
Windham, of Norfolk, once observed to me, after having made an admirable
speech in the House of Commons, which was highly applauded, but which he
afterwards perceived might have been better:) 'that we are more uneasy
from thinking of our wants, than happy in thinking of our acquisitions.'
This is an unreasonable mode of disturbing our tranquillity, and should
be corrected; let me then comfort myself with the large treasure of
Johnson's conversation which I have preserved for my own enjoyment and
that of the world, and let me exhibit what I have upon each occasion,
whether more or less, whether a bulse[1054], or only a few sparks of a

He said, 'Dr. Mead lived more in the broad sunshine of life than almost
any man[1055].' The disaster of General Burgoyne's army was then the
common topic of conversation. It was asked why piling their arms was
insisted upon as a matter of such consequence, when it seemed to be a
circumstance so inconsiderable in itself[1056]. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, a
French authour says, "_Il y a beaucoup de puerilites dans la guerre_."
All distinctions are trifles, because great things can seldom occur, and
those distinctions are settled by custom. A savage would as willingly
have his meat sent to him in the kitchen, as eat it at the table here;
as men become civilized, various modes of denoting honourable preference
are invented.'

He this day made the observations upon the similarity between _Rasselas_
and _Candide_, which I have inserted in its proper place[1057], when
considering his admirable philosophical Romance. He said _Candide_ he
thought had more power in it than any thing that _Voltaire_ had written.

He said, 'the lyrical part of Horace never can be perfectly translated;
so much of the excellence is in the numbers and the expression. Francis
has done it the best; I'll take his, five out of six, against them all.'

On Sunday, May 17, I presented to him Mr. Fullarton, of Fullarton, who
has since distinguished himself so much in India[1058], to whom he
naturally talked of travels, as Mr. Brydone accompanied him in his tour
to Sicily and Malta. He said, 'The information which we have from modern
travellers is much more authentick than what we had from ancient
travellers; ancient travellers guessed; modern travellers measure[1059].
The Swiss admit that there is but one errour in Stanyan[1060]. If Brydone
were more attentive to his Bible, he would be a good traveller[1061].'

He said, 'Lord Chatham was a Dictator; he possessed the power of putting
the State in motion; now there is no power, all order is relaxed.'
BOSWELL. 'Is there no hope of a change to the better?' JOHNSON. 'Why,
yes, Sir, when we are weary of this relaxation. So the City of London
will appoint its Mayors again by seniority[1062].' BOSWELL. 'But is not
that taking a mere chance for having a good or a bad Mayor?' JOHNSON.
'Yes, Sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst
Mayor that can come; besides, there is no more reason to suppose that
the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.'

On Tuesday, May 19, I was to set out for Scotland in the evening. He was
engaged to dine with me at Mr. Dilly's, I waited upon him to remind him
of his appointment and attend him thither; he gave me some salutary
counsel, and recommended vigorous resolution against any deviation from
moral duty. BOSWELL. 'But you would not have me to bind myself by a
solemn obligation?' JOHNSON, (much agitated) 'What! a vow--O, no, Sir, a
vow is a horrible thing, it is a snare for sin[1063]. The man who cannot
go to Heaven without a vow--may go--.' Here, standing erect, in the
middle of his library, and rolling grand, his pause was truly a curious
compound of the solemn and the ludicrous; he half-whistled in his usual
way, when pleasant, and he paused, as if checked by religious awe.
Methought he would have added--to Hell--but was restrained. I humoured
the dilemma. 'What! Sir, (said I,) _In caelum jusseris ibit_[1064]?'
alluding to his imitation of it,--

'And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes.'

I had mentioned to him a slight fault in his noble _Imitation of the
Tenth Satire of Juvenal_, a too near recurrence of the verb _spread_, in
his description of the young Enthusiast at College:--

'Through all his veins the fever of renown,
_Spreads_ from the strong contagion of the gown;
O'er Bodley's dome his future labours _spread_,
And Bacon's mansion trembles o'er his head[1065].'

He had desired me to change _spreads_ to _burns_, but for perfect
authenticity, I now had it done with his own hand[1066]. I thought this
alteration not only cured the fault, but was more poetical, as it might
carry an allusion to the shirt by which Hercules was inflamed.

We had a quiet comfortable meeting at Mr. Dilly's; nobody there but
ourselves. Mr. Dilly mentioned somebody having wished that Milton's
_Tractate on Education_ should be printed along with his Poems in the
edition of _The English Poets_ then going on. JOHNSON. 'It would be
breaking in upon the plan; but would be of no great consequence. So far
as it would be any thing, it would be wrong. Education in England has
been in danger of being hurt by two of its greatest men, Milton and
Locke. Milton's plan is impracticable, and I suppose has never been
tried. Locke's, I fancy, has been tried often enough, but is very
imperfect; it gives too much to one side, and too little to the other;
it gives too little to literature[1067].--I shall do what I can for Dr.
Watts; but my materials are very scanty. His poems are by no means his
best works; I cannot praise his poetry itself highly; but I can praise
its design[1068].'

My illustrious friend and I parted with assurances of affectionate

I wrote to him on the 25th of May, from Thorpe in Yorkshire, one of the
seats of Mr. Bosville[1069], and gave him an account of my having passed
a day at Lincoln, unexpectedly, and therefore without having any letters
of introduction, but that I had been honoured with civilities from the
Reverend Mr. Simpson, an acquaintance of his, and Captain Broadley, of
the Lincolnshire Militia; but more particularly from the Reverend Dr.
Gordon, the Chancellor, who first received me with great politeness as a
stranger, and when I informed him who I was, entertained me at his house
with the most flattering attention; I also expressed the pleasure with
which I had found that our worthy friend Langton was highly esteemed in
his own county town.


'Edinburgh, June 18, 1778.


* * * * *

'Since my return to Scotland, I have been again at Lanark, and have had
more conversation with Thomson's sister. It is strange that Murdoch, who
was his intimate friend, should have mistaken his mother's maiden name,
which he says was Hume, whereas Hume was the name of his grandmother by
the mother's side. His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter[1070], a
daughter of Mr. Trotter, of Fogo, a small proprietor of land. Thomson
had one brother, whom he had with him in England as his amanuensis; but
he was seized with a consumption, and having returned to Scotland, to
try what his native air would do for him, died young. He had three
sisters, one married to Mr. Bell, minister of the parish of Strathaven;
one to Mr. Craig, father of the ingenious architect, who gave the plan
of the New Town of Edinburgh; and one to Mr. Thomson, master of the
grammar-school at Lanark. He was of a humane and benevolent disposition;
not only sent valuable presents to his sisters, but a yearly allowance
in money, and was always wishing to have it in his power to do them more
good. Lord Lyttelton's observation, that "he loathed much to write," was
very true. His letters to his sister, Mrs. Thomson, were not frequent,
and in one of them he says, "All my friends who know me, know how
backward I am to write letters; and never impute the negligence of my
hand to the coldness of my heart." I send you a copy of the last letter
which she had from him[1071]; she never heard that he had any intention
of going into holy orders. From this late interview with his sister, I
think much more favourably of him, as I hope you will. I am eager to see
more of your Prefaces to the Poets; I solace myself with the few
proof-sheets which I have.

'I send another parcel of Lord Hailes's _Annals_[1072], which you will
please to return to me as soon as you conveniently can. He says, "he
wishes you would cut a little deeper;" but he may be proud that there is
so little occasion to use the critical knife. I ever am, my dear Sir,

'Your faithful and affectionate,

'humble servant,


Mr. Langton has been pleased, at my request, to favour me with some
particulars of Dr. Johnson's visit to Warley-camp, where this gentleman
was at the time stationed as a Captain in the Lincolnshire militia[1073].
I shall give them in his own words in a letter to me.

'It was in the summer of the year 1778[1074], that he complied with my
invitation to come down to the Camp at Warley, and he staid with me
about a week; the scene appeared, notwithstanding a great degree of ill
health that he seemed to labour under, to interest and amuse him, as
agreeing with the disposition that I believe you know he constantly
manifested towards enquiring into subjects of the military kind. He
sate, with a patient degree of attention, to observe the proceedings of
a regimental court-martial, that happened to be called, in the time of
his stay with us; and one night, as late as at eleven o'clock, he
accompanied the Major of the regiment in going what are styled the
_Rounds_, where he might observe the forms of visiting the guards, for
the seeing that they and their sentries are ready in their duty on their
several posts. He took occasion to converse at times on military
topicks, one in particular, that I see the mention of, in your _Journal
of a Tour to the Hebrides_, which lies open before me[1075], as to
gun-powder; which he spoke of to the same effect, in part, that you

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