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Life of Johnson by [James] Boswell

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Reynolds and he were at this time the guests of Dr. Mudge, the
celebrated surgeon, and now physician of that place, not more
distinguished for quickness of parts and variety of knowledge, than
loved and esteemed for his amiable manners; and here Johnson formed
an acquaintance with Dr. Mudge's father, that very eminent divine,
the Reverend Zachariah Mudge, Prebendary of Exeter, who was
idolised in the west, both for his excellence as a preacher and the
uniform perfect propriety of his private conduct. He preached a
sermon purposely that Johnson might hear him; and we shall see
afterwards that Johnson honoured his memory by drawing his
character. While Johnson was at Plymouth, he saw a great many of
its inhabitants, and was not sparing of his very entertaining
conversation. It was here that he made that frank and truly
original confession, that 'ignorance, pure ignorance,' was the
cause of a wrong definition in his Dictionary of the word pastern,
to the no small surprise of the Lady who put the question to him;
who having the most profound reverence for his character, so as
almost to suppose him endowed with infallibility, expected to hear
an explanation (of what, to be sure, seemed strange to a common
reader,) drawn from some deep-learned source with which she was

Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom I was obliged for my information
concerning this excursion, mentions a very characteristical
anecdote of Johnson while at Plymouth. Having observed that in
consequence of the Dock-yard a new town had arisen about two miles
off as a rival to the old; and knowing from his sagacity, and just
observation of human nature, that it is certain if a man hates at
all, he will hate his next neighbour; he concluded that this new
and rising town could not but excite the envy and jealousy of the
old, in which conjecture he was very soon confirmed; he therefore
set himself resolutely on the side of the old town, the established
town, in which his lot was cast, considering it as a kind of duty
to stand by it. He accordingly entered warmly into its interests,
and upon every occasion talked of the dockers, as the inhabitants
of the new town were called, as upstarts and aliens. Plymouth is
very plentifully supplied with water by a river brought into it
from a great distance, which is so abundant that it runs to waste
in the town. The Dock, or New-town, being totally destitute of
water, petitioned Plymouth that a small portion of the conduit
might be permitted to go to them, and this was now under
consideration. Johnson, affecting to entertain the passions of the
place, was violent in opposition; and, half-laughing at himself for
his pretended zeal where he had no concern, exclaimed, 'No, no! I
am against the dockers; I am a Plymouth man. Rogues! let them die
of thirst. They shall not have a drop!'

1763: AETAT. 54.]--This is to me a memorable year; for in it I had
the happiness to obtain the acquaintance of that extraordinary man
whose memoirs I am now writing; an acquaintance which I shall ever
esteem as one of the most fortunate circumstances in my life.
Though then but two-and-twenty, I had for several years read his
works with delight and instruction, and had the highest reverence
for their authour, which had grown up in my fancy into a kind of
mysterious veneration, by figuring to myself a state of solemn
elevated abstraction, in which I supposed him to live in the
immense metropolis of London. Mr. Gentleman, a native of Ireland,
who passed some years in Scotland as a player, and as an instructor
in the English language, a man whose talents and worth were
depressed by misfortunes, had given me a representation of the
figure and manner of DICTIONARY JOHNSON! as he was then generally
called; and during my first visit to London, which was for three
months in 1760, Mr. Derrick the poet, who was Gentleman's friend
and countryman, flattered me with hopes that he would introduce me
to Johnson, an honour of which I was very ambitious. But he never
found an opportunity; which made me doubt that he had promised to
do what was not in his power; till Johnson some years afterwards
told me, 'Derrick, Sir, might very well have introduced you. I had
a kindness for Derrick, and am sorry he is dead.'

In the summer of 1761 Mr. Thomas Sheridan was at Edinburgh, and
delivered lectures upon the English Language and Publick Speaking
to large and respectable audiences. I was often in his company,
and heard him frequently expatiate upon Johnson's extraordinary
knowledge, talents, and virtues, repeat his pointed sayings,
describe his particularities, and boast of his being his guest
sometimes till two or three in the morning. At his house I hoped
to have many opportunities of seeing the sage, as Mr. Sheridan
obligingly assured me I should not be disappointed.

When I returned to London in the end of 1762, to my surprise and
regret I found an irreconcilable difference had taken place between
Johnson and Sheridan. A pension of two hundred pounds a year had
been given to Sheridan. Johnson, who, as has been already
mentioned, thought slightingly of Sheridan's art, upon hearing that
he was also pensioned, exclaimed, 'What! have they given HIM a
pension? Then it is time for me to give up mine.'

Johnson complained that a man who disliked him repeated his sarcasm
to Mr. Sheridan, without telling him what followed, which was, that
after a pause he added, 'However, I am glad that Mr. Sheridan has a
pension, for he is a very good man.' Sheridan could never forgive
this hasty contemptuous expression. It rankled in his mind; and
though I informed him of all that Johnson said, and that he would
be very glad to meet him amicably, he positively declined repeated
offers which I made, and once went off abruptly from a house where
he and I were engaged to dine, because he was told that Dr. Johnson
was to be there.

This rupture with Sheridan deprived Johnson of one of his most
agreeable resources for amusement in his lonely evenings; for
Sheridan's well-informed, animated, and bustling mind never
suffered conversation to stagnate; and Mrs. Sheridan was a most
agreeable companion to an intellectual man. She was sensible,
ingenious, unassuming, yet communicative. I recollect, with
satisfaction, many pleasing hours which I passed with her under the
hospitable roof of her husband, who was to me a very kind friend.
Her novel, entitled Memoirs of Miss Sydney Biddulph, contains an
excellent moral while it inculcates a future state of retribution;
and what it teaches is impressed upon the mind by a series of as
deep distress as can affect humanity, in the amiable and pious
heroine who goes to her grave unrelieved, but resigned, and full of
hope of 'heaven's mercy.' Johnson paid her this high compliment
upon it: 'I know not, Madam, that you have a right, upon moral
principles, to make your readers suffer so much.'

Mr. Thomas Davies the actor, who then kept a bookseller's shop in
Russel-street, Covent-garden, told me that Johnson was very much
his friend, and came frequently to his house, where he more than
once invited me to meet him; but by some unlucky accident or other
he was prevented from coming to us.

Mr. Thomas Davies was a man of good understanding and talents, with
the advantage of a liberal education. Though somewhat pompous, he
was an entertaining companion; and his literary performances have
no inconsiderable share of merit. He was a friendly and very
hospitable man. Both he and his wife, (who has been celebrated for
her beauty,) though upon the stage for many years, maintained an
uniform decency of character; and Johnson esteemed them, and lived
in as easy an intimacy with them, as with any family which he used
to visit. Mr. Davies recollected several of Johnson's remarkable
sayings, and was one of the best of the many imitators of his voice
and manner, while relating them. He increased my impatience more
and more to see the extraordinary man whose works I highly valued,
and whose conversation was reported to be so peculiarly excellent.

At last, on Monday the 16th of May, when I was sitting in Mr.
Davies's back-parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs.
Davies, Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop; and Mr. Davies
having perceived him through the glass-door in the room in which we
were sitting, advancing towards us,--he announced his aweful
approach to me, somewhat in the manner of an actor in the part of
Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on the appearance of his father's
ghost, 'Look, my Lord, it comes.' I found that I had a very
perfect idea of Johnson's figure, from the portrait of him painted
by Sir Joshua Reynolds soon after he had published his Dictionary,
in the attitude of sitting in his easy chair in deep meditation,
which was the first picture his friend did for him, which Sir
Joshua very kindly presented to me, and from which an engraving has
been made for this work. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and
respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and
recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard
much, I said to Davies, 'Don't tell where I come from.'--'From
Scotland,' cried Davies roguishly. 'Mr. Johnson, (said I) I do
indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.' I am willing to
flatter myself that I meant this as light pleasantry to sooth and
conciliate him, and not as an humiliating abasement at the expence
of my country. But however that might be, this speech was somewhat
unlucky; for with that quickness of wit for which he was so
remarkable, he seized the expression 'come from Scotland,' which I
used in the sense of being of that country; and, as if I had said
that I had come away from it, or left it, retorted, 'That, Sir, I
find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help.'
This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down, I
felt myself not a little embarrassed, and apprehensive of what
might come next. He then addressed himself to Davies: 'What do you
think of Garrick? He has refused me an order for the play for Miss
Williams, because he knows the house will be full, and that an
order would be worth three shillings.' Eager to take any opening
to get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, 'O, Sir, I
cannot think Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you.' 'Sir,
(said he, with a stern look,) I have known David Garrick longer
than you have done: and I know no right you have to talk to me on
the subject.' Perhaps I deserved this check; for it was rather
presumptuous in me, an entire stranger, to express any doubt of the
justice of his animadversion upon his old acquaintance and pupil.*
I now felt myself much mortified, and began to think that the hope
which I had long indulged of obtaining his acquaintance was
blasted. And, in truth, had not my ardour been uncommonly strong,
and my resolution uncommonly persevering, so rough a reception
might have deterred me for ever from making any further attempts.
Fortunately, however, I remained upon the field not wholly

* That this was a momentary sally against Garrick there can be no
doubt; for at Johnson's desire he had, some years before, given a
benefit-night at his theatre to this very person, by which she had
got two hundred pounds. Johnson, indeed, upon all other occasions,
when I was in his company praised the very liberal charity of
Garrick. I once mentioned to him, 'It is observed, Sir, that you
attack Garrick yourself, but will suffer nobody else to do it.'
Johnson, (smiling) 'Why, Sir, that is true.'--BOSWELL.

I was highly pleased with the extraordinary vigour of his
conversation, and regretted that I was drawn away from it by an
engagement at another place. I had, for a part of the evening,
been left alone with him, and had ventured to make an observation
now and then, which he received very civilly; so that I was
satisfied that though there was a roughness in his manner, there
was no ill-nature in his disposition. Davies followed me to the
door, and when I complained to him a little of the hard blows which
the great man had given me, he kindly took upon him to console me
by saying, 'Don't be uneasy. I can see he likes you very well.'

A few days afterwards I called on Davies, and asked him if he
thought I might take the liberty of waiting on Mr. Johnson at his
Chambers in the Temple. He said I certainly might, and that Mr.
Johnson would take it as a compliment. So upon Tuesday the 24th of
May, after having been enlivened by the witty sallies of Messieurs
Thornton, Wilkes, Churchill and Lloyd, with whom I had passed the
morning, I boldly repaired to Johnson. His Chambers were on the
first floor of No. 1, Inner-Temple-lane, and I entered them with an
impression given me by the Reverend Dr. Blair, of Edinburgh, who
had been introduced to him not long before, and described his
having 'found the Giant in his den;' an expression, which, when I
came to be pretty well acquainted with Johnson, I repeated to him,
and he was diverted at this picturesque account of himself. Dr.
Blair had been presented to him by Dr. James Fordyce. At this time
the controversy concerning the pieces published by Mr. James
Macpherson, as translations of Ossian, was at its height. Johnson
had all along denied their authenticity; and, what was still more
provoking to their admirers, maintained that they had no merit.
The subject having been introduced by Dr. Fordyce, Dr. Blair,
relying on the internal evidence of their antiquity, asked Dr.
Johnson whether he thought any man of a modern age could have
written such poems? Johnson replied, 'Yes, Sir, many men, many
women, and many children.' Johnson, at this time, did not know
that Dr. Blair had just published a Dissertation, not only
defending their authenticity, but seriously ranking them with the
poems of Homer and Virgil; and when he was afterwards informed of
this circumstance, he expressed some displeasure at Dr. Fordyce's
having suggested the topick, and said, 'I am not sorry that they
got thus much for their pains. Sir, it was like leading one to
talk of a book when the authour is concealed behind the door.'

He received me very courteously; but, it must be confessed, that
his apartment, and furniture, and morning dress, were sufficiently
uncouth. His brown suit of cloaths looked very rusty; he had on a
little old shrivelled unpowdered wig, which was too small for his
head; his shirt-neck and knees of his breeches were loose; his
black worsted stockings ill drawn up; and he had a pair of
unbuckled shoes by way of slippers. But all these slovenly
particularities were forgotten the moment that he began to talk.
Some gentlemen, whom I do not recollect, were sitting with him; and
when they went away, I also rose; but he said to me, 'Nay, don't
go.' 'Sir, (said I,) I am afraid that I intrude upon you. It is
benevolent to allow me to sit and hear you.' He seemed pleased
with this compliment, which I sincerely paid him, and answered,
'Sir, I am obliged to any man who visits me.' I have preserved the
following short minute of what passed this day:--

'Madness frequently discovers itself merely by unnecessary
deviation from the usual modes of the world. My poor friend Smart
shewed the disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and
saying his prayers in the street, or in any other unusual place.
Now although, rationally speaking, it is greater madness not to
pray at all, than to pray as Smart did, I am afraid there are so
many who do not pray, that their understanding is not called in

Concerning this unfortunate poet, Christopher Smart, who was
confined in a mad-house, he had, at another time, the following
conversation with Dr. Burney:--BURNEY. 'How does poor Smart do,
Sir; is he likely to recover?' JOHNSON. 'It seems as if his mind
had ceased to struggle with the disease; for he grows fat upon it.'
BURNEY. 'Perhaps, Sir, that may be from want of exercise.'
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; he has partly as much exercise as he used to
have, for he digs in the garden. Indeed, before his confinement,
he used for exercise to walk to the ale-house; but he was CARRIED
back again. I did not think he ought to be shut up. His
infirmities were not noxious to society. He insisted on people
praying with him; and I'd as lief pray with Kit Smart as any one
else. Another charge was, that he did not love clean linen; and I
have no passion for it.'--Johnson continued. 'Mankind have a great
aversion to intellectual labour; but even supposing knowledge to be
easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than
would take even a little trouble to acquire it.'

Talking of Garrick, he said, 'He is the first man in the world for
sprightly conversation.'

When I rose a second time he again pressed me to stay, which I did.

He told me, that he generally went abroad at four in the afternoon,
and seldom came home till two in the morning. I took the liberty
to ask if he did not think it wrong to live thus, and not make more
use of his great talents. He owned it was a bad habit. On
reviewing, at the distance of many years, my journal of this
period, I wonder how, at my first visit, I ventured to talk to him
so freely, and that he bore it with so much indulgence.

Before we parted, he was so good as to promise to favour me with
his company one evening at my lodgings; and, as I took my leave,
shook me cordially by the hand. It is almost needless to add, that
I felt no little elation at having now so happily established an
acquaintance of which I had been so long ambitious.

I did not visit him again till Monday, June 13, at which time I
recollect no part of his conversation, except that when I told him
I had been to see Johnson ride upon three horses, he said, 'Such a
man, Sir, should be encouraged; for his performances shew the
extent of the human powers in one instance, and thus tend to raise
our opinion of the faculties of man. He shews what may be attained
by persevering application; so that every man may hope, that by
giving as much application, although perhaps he may never ride
three horses at a time, or dance upon a wire, yet he may be equally
expert in whatever profession he has chosen to pursue.'

He again shook me by the hand at parting, and asked me why I did
not come oftener to him. Trusting that I was now in his good
graces, I answered, that he had not given me much encouragement,
and reminded him of the check I had received from him at our first
interview. 'Poh, poh! (said he, with a complacent smile,) never
mind these things. Come to me as often as you can. I shall be
glad to see you.'

I had learnt that his place of frequent resort was the Mitre tavern
in Fleet-street, where he loved to sit up late, and I begged I
might be allowed to pass an evening with him there soon, which he
promised I should. A few days afterwards I met him near Temple-
bar, about one o'clock in the morning, and asked if he would then
go to the Mitre. 'Sir, (said he) it is too late; they won't let us
in. But I'll go with you another night with all my heart.'

A revolution of some importance in my plan of life had just taken
place; for instead of procuring a commission in the foot-guards,
which was my own inclination, I had, in compliance with my father's
wishes, agreed to study the law, and was soon to set out for
Utrecht, to hear the lectures of an excellent Civilian in that
University, and then to proceed on my travels. Though very
desirous of obtaining Dr. Johnson's advice and instructions on the
mode of pursuing my studies, I was at this time so occupied, shall
I call it? or so dissipated, by the amusements of London, that our
next meeting was not till Saturday, June 25, when happening to dine
at Clifton's eating-house, in Butcher-row I was surprized to
perceive Johnson come in and take his seat at another table. The
mode of dining, or rather being fed, at such houses in London, is
well known to many to be particularly unsocial, as there is no
Ordinary, or united company, but each person has his own mess, and
is under no obligation to hold any intercourse with any one. A
liberal and full-minded man, however, who loves to talk, will break
through this churlish and unsocial restraint. Johnson and an Irish
gentleman got into a dispute concerning the cause of some part of
mankind being black. 'Why, Sir, (said Johnson,) it has been
accounted for in three ways: either by supposing that they are the
posterity of Ham, who was cursed; or that GOD at first created two
kinds of men, one black and another white; or that by the heat of
the sun the skin is scorched, and so acquires a sooty hue. This
matter has been much canvassed among naturalists, but has never
been brought to any certain issue.' What the Irishman said is
totally obliterated from my mind; but I remember that he became
very warm and intemperate in his expressions; upon which Johnson
rose, and quietly walked away. When he had retired, his antagonist
took his revenge, as he thought, by saying, 'He has a most ungainly
figure, and an affectation of pomposity, unworthy of a man of

Johnson had not observed that I was in the room. I followed him,
however, and he agreed to meet me in the evening at the Mitre. I
called on him, and we went thither at nine. We had a good supper,
and port wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle. The
orthodox high-church sound of the Mitre,--the figure and manner of
the celebrated SAMUEL JOHNSON,--the extraordinary power and
precision of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding
myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations,
and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ever before
experienced. I find in my journal the following minute of our
conversation, which, though it will give but a very faint notion of
what passed, is in some degree a valuable record; and it will be
curious in this view, as shewing how habitual to his mind were some
opinions which appear in his works.

'Colley Cibber, Sir, was by no means a blockhead; but by arrogating
to himself too much, he was in danger of losing that degree of
estimation to which he was entitled. His friends gave out that he
INTENDED his birth-day Odes should be bad: but that was not the
case, Sir; for he kept them many months by him, and a few years
before he died he shewed me one of them, with great solicitude to
render it as perfect as might be, and I made some corrections, to
which he was not very willing to submit. I remember the following
couplet in allusion to the King and himself:

"Perch'd on the eagle's soaring wing,
The lowly linnet loves to sing."

Sir, he had heard something of the fabulous tale of the wren
sitting upon the eagle's wing, and he had applied it to a linnet.
Cibber's familiar style, however, was better than that which
Whitehead has assumed. GRAND nonsense is insupportable. Whitehead
is but a little man to inscribe verses to players.

'Sir, I do not think Gray a first-rate poet. He has not a bold
imagination, nor much command of words. The obscurity in which he
has involved himself will not persuade us that he is sublime. His
Elegy in a Church-yard has a happy selection of images, but I don't
like what are called his great things. His Ode which begins

"Ruin seize thee, ruthless King,
Confusion on thy banners wait!"

has been celebrated for its abruptness, and plunging into the
subject all at once. But such arts as these have no merit, unless
when they are original. We admire them only once; and this
abruptness has nothing new in it. We have had it often before.
Nay, we have it in the old song of Johnny Armstrong:

"Is there ever a man in all Scotland
From the highest estate to the lowest degree," &c.

And then, Sir,

"Yes, there is a man in Westmoreland,
And Johnny Armstrong they do him call."

There, now, you plunge at once into the subject. You have no
previous narration to lead you to it. The two next lines in that
Ode are, I think, very good:

"Though fann'd by conquest's crimson wing,
They mock the air with idle state."'

Finding him in a placid humour, and wishing to avail myself of the
opportunity which I fortunately had of consulting a sage, to hear
whose wisdom, I conceived in the ardour of youthful imagination,
that men filled with a noble enthusiasm for intellectual
improvement would gladly have resorted from distant lands;--I
opened my mind to him ingenuously, and gave him a little sketch of
my life, to which he was pleased to listen with great attention.

I acknowledged, that though educated very strictly in the
principles of religion, I had for some time been misled into a
certain degree of infidelity; but that I was come now to a better
way of thinking, and was fully satisfied of the truth of the
Christian revelation, though I was not clear as to every point
considered to be orthodox. Being at all times a curious examiner
of the human mind, and pleased with an undisguised display of what
had passed in it, he called to me with warmth, 'Give me your hand;
I have taken a liking to you.' He then began to descant upon the
force of testimony, and the little we could know of final causes;
so that the objections of, why was it so? or why was it not so?
ought not to disturb us: adding, that he himself had at one period
been guilty of a temporary neglect of religion, but that it was not
the result of argument, but mere absence of thought.

After having given credit to reports of his bigotry, I was
agreeably surprized when he expressed the following very liberal
sentiment, which has the additional value of obviating an objection
to our holy religion, founded upon the discordant tenets of
Christians themselves: 'For my part, Sir, I think all Christians,
whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles,
and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than

We talked of belief in ghosts. He said, 'Sir, I make a distinction
between what a man may experience by the mere strength of his
imagination, and what imagination cannot possibly produce. Thus,
suppose I should think that I saw a form, and heard a voice cry
"Johnson, you are a very wicked fellow, and unless you repent you
will certainly be punished;" my own unworthiness is so deeply
impressed upon my mind, that I might IMAGINE I thus saw and heard,
and therefore I should not believe that an external communication
had been made to me. But if a form should appear, and a voice
should tell me that a particular man had died at a particular
place, and a particular hour, a fact which I had no apprehension
of, nor any means of knowing, and this fact, with all its
circumstances, should afterwards be unquestionably proved, I
should, in that case, be persuaded that I had supernatural
intelligence imparted to me.'

Here it is proper, once for all, to give a true and fair statement
of Johnson's way of thinking upon the question, whether departed
spirits are ever permitted to appear in this world, or in any way
to operate upon human life. He has been ignorantly misrepresented
as weakly credulous upon that subject; and, therefore, though I
feel an inclination to disdain and treat with silent contempt so
foolish a notion concerning my illustrious friend, yet as I find it
has gained ground, it is necessary to refute it. The real fact
then is, that Johnson had a very philosophical mind, and such a
rational respect for testimony, as to make him submit his
understanding to what was authentically proved, though he could not
comprehend why it was so. Being thus disposed, he was willing to
inquire into the truth of any relation of supernatural agency, a
general belief of which has prevailed in all nations and ages. But
so far was he from being the dupe of implicit faith, that he
examined the matter with a jealous attention, and no man was more
ready to refute its falsehood when he had discovered it.
Churchill, in his poem entitled The Ghost, availed himself of the
absurd credulity imputed to Johnson, and drew a caricature of him
under the name of 'POMPOSO,' representing him as one of the
believers of the story of a Ghost in Cock-lane, which, in the year
1762, had gained very general credit in London. Many of my
readers, I am convinced, are to this hour under an impression that
Johnson was thus foolishly deceived. It will therefore surprize
them a good deal when they are informed upon undoubted authority,
that Johnson was one of those by whom the imposture was detected.
The story had become so popular, that he thought it should be
investigated; and in this research he was assisted by the Reverend
Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, the great detector of
impostures; who informs me, that after the gentlemen who went and
examined into the evidence were satisfied of its falsity, Johnson
wrote in their presence an account of it, which was published in
the newspapers and Gentleman's Magazine, and undeceived the world.

Our conversation proceeded. 'Sir, (said he) I am a friend to
subordination, as most conducive to the happiness of society.
There is a reciprocal pleasure in governing and being governed.'

'Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now have as an authour,
and he is a very worthy man too. He has been loose in his
principles, but he is coming right.'

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

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

At this time I think he had published nothing with his name, though
it was pretty generally known that one Dr. Goldsmith was the
authour of An Enquiry into the present State of polite Learning in
Europe, and of The Citizen of the World, a series of letters
supposed to be written from London by a Chinese. No man had the
art of displaying with more advantage as a writer, whatever
literary acquisitions he made. 'Nihil quod tetigit non ornavit.'
His mind resembled a fertile, but thin soil. There was a quick,
but not a strong vegetation, of whatever chanced to be thrown upon
it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of the forest did not
grow there; but the elegant shrubbery and the fragrant parterre
appeared in gay succession. It has been generally circulated and
believed that he was a mere fool in conversation; but, in truth,
this has been greatly exaggerated. He had, no doubt, a more than
common share of that hurry of ideas which we often find in his
countrymen, and which sometimes produces a laughable confusion in
expressing them. He was very much what the French call un etourdi,
and from vanity and an eager desire of being conspicuous wherever
he was, he frequently talked carelessly without knowledge of the
subject, or even without thought. His person was short, his
countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar
aukwardly affecting the easy gentleman. Those who were in any way
distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that
the instances of it are hardly credible. When accompanying two
beautiful young ladies* with their mother on a tour in France, he
was seriously angry that more attention was paid to them than to
him; and once at the exhibition of the Fantoccini in London, when
those who sat next him observed with what dexterity a puppet was
made to toss a pike, he could not bear that it should have such
praise, and exclaimed with some warmth, 'Pshaw! I can do it better

* These were the Misses Horneck, known otherwise as 'Little Comedy'
and 'The Jessamy Bride.'--ED.

He boasted to me at this time of the power of his pen in commanding
money, which I believe was true in a certain degree, though in the
instance he gave he was by no means correct. He told me that he
had sold a novel for four hundred pounds. This was his Vicar of
Wakefield. But Johnson informed me, that he had made the bargain
for Goldsmith, and the price was sixty pounds. 'And, Sir, (said
he,) a sufficient price too, when it was sold; for then the fame of
Goldsmith had not been elevated, as it afterwards was, by his
Traveller; and the bookseller had such faint hopes of profit by his
bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a long time, and did
not publish it till after The Traveller had appeared. Then, to be
sure, it was accidentally worth more money.

Mrs. Piozzi and Sir John Hawkins have strangely misstated the
history of Goldsmith's situation and Johnson's friendly
interference, when this novel was sold. I shall give it
authentically from Johnson's own exact narration:--'I received one
morning a message from poor Goldsmith that he was in great
distress, and as it was not in his power to come to me, begging
that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea,
and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon
as I was drest, and found that his landlady had arrested him for
his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that
he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira
and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he
would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he
might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel ready for
the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its
merit; told the landlady I should soon return, and having gone to a
bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the
money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady
in a high tone for having used him so ill.'

My next meeting with Johnson was on Friday the 1st of July, when he
and I and Dr. Goldsmith supped together at the Mitre. I was before
this time pretty well acquainted with Goldsmith, who was one of the
brightest ornaments of the Johnsonian school. Goldsmith's
respectful attachment to Johnson was then at its height; for his
own literary reputation had not yet distinguished him so much as to
excite a vain desire of competition with his great Master. He had
increased my admiration of the goodness of Johnson's heart, by
incidental remarks in the course of conversation, such as, when I
mentioned Mr. Levet, whom he entertained under his roof, 'He is
poor and honest, which is recommendation enough to Johnson;' and
when I wondered that he was very kind to a man of whom I had heard
a very bad character, 'He is now become miserable; and that insures
the protection of Johnson.'

He talked very contemptuously of Churchill's poetry, observing,
that 'it had a temporary currency, only from its audacity of abuse,
and being filled with living names, and that it would sink into
oblivion.' I ventured to hint that he was not quite a fair judge,
as Churchill had attacked him violently. JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, I am
a very fair judge. He did not attack me violently till he found I
did not like his poetry; and his attack on me shall not prevent me
from continuing to say what I think of him, from an apprehension
that it may be ascribed to resentment. No, Sir, I called the
fellow a blockhead at first, and I will call him a blockhead still.
However, I will acknowledge that I have a better opinion of him
now, than I once had; for he has shewn more fertility than I
expected. To be sure, he is a tree that cannot produce good fruit:
he only bears crabs. But, Sir, a tree that produces a great many
crabs is better than a tree which produces only a few.'

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

At this time MISS Williams, as she was then called, though she did
not reside with him in the Temple under his roof, but had lodgings
in Bolt-court, Fleet-street, had so much of his attention, that he
every night drank tea with her before he went home, however late it
might be, and she always sat up for him. This, it may be fairly
conjectured, was not alone a proof of his regard for HER, but of
his own unwillingness to go into solitude, before that unseasonable
hour at which he had habituated himself to expect the oblivion of
repose. Dr. Goldsmith, being a privileged man, went with him this
night, strutting away, and calling to me with an air of
superiority, like that of an esoterick over an exoterick disciple
of a sage of antiquity, 'I go to Miss Williams.' I confess, I then
envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed so proud; but
it was not long before I obtained the same mark of distinction.

On Tuesday the 5th of July, I again visited Johnson.

Talking of London, he observed, 'Sir, if you wish to have a just
notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied
with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the
innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy
evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human
habitations which are crouded together, that the wonderful
immensity of London consists.'

On Wednesday, July 6, he was engaged to sup with me at my lodgings
in Downing-street, Westminster. But on the preceding night my
landlord having behaved very rudely to me and some company who were
with me, I had resolved not to remain another night in his house.
I was exceedingly uneasy at the aukward appearance I supposed I
should make to Johnson and the other gentlemen whom I had invited,
not being able to receive them at home, and being obliged to order
supper at the Mitre. I went to Johnson in the morning, and talked
of it as a serious distress. He laughed, and said, 'Consider, Sir,
how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence.'--Were this
consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious
incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it
would prevent many painful sensations. I have tried it frequently,
with good effect. 'There is nothing (continued he) in this mighty
misfortune; nay, we shall be better at the Mitre.'

I had as my guests this evening at the Mitre tavern, Dr. Johnson,
Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Thomas Davies, Mr. Eccles, an Irish gentleman,
for whose agreeable company I was obliged to Mr. Davies, and the
Reverend Mr. John Ogilvie, who was desirous of being in company
with my illustrious friend, while I, in my turn, was proud to have
the honour of shewing one of my countrymen upon what easy terms
Johnson permitted me to live with him.

Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerness, to
SHINE, and disputed very warmly with Johnson against the well-known
maxim of the British constitution, 'the King can do no wrong;'
affirming, that 'what was morally false could not be politically
true; and as the King might, in the exercise of his regal power,
command and cause the doing of what was wrong, it certainly might
be said, in sense and in reason, that he could do wrong.' JOHNSON.
'Sir, you are to consider, that in our constitution, according to
its true principles, the King is the head; he is supreme; he is
above every thing, and there is no power by which he can be tried.
Therefore, it is, Sir, that we hold the King can do no wrong; that
whatever may happen to be wrong in government may not be above our
reach, by being ascribed to Majesty. Redress is always to be had
against oppression, by punishing the immediate agents. The King,
though he should command, cannot force a Judge to condemn a man
unjustly; therefore it is the Judge whom we prosecute and punish.
Political institutions are formed upon the consideration of what
will most frequently tend to the good of the whole, although now
and then exceptions may occur. Thus it is better in general that a
nation should have a supreme legislative power, although it may at
times be abused. And then, Sir, there is this consideration, that
if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up, and claiming her
original rights, overturn a corrupt political system.' I mark this
animated sentence with peculiar pleasure, as a noble instance of
that truly dignified spirit of freedom which ever glowed in his
heart, though he was charged with slavish tenets by superficial
observers; because he was at all times indignant against that false
patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that unruly
restlessness, which is inconsistent with the stable authority of
any good government.

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

Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign, he observed,
'I think Dr. Arbuthnot the first man among them. He was the most
universal genius, being an excellent physician, a man of deep
learning, and a man of much humour. Mr. Addison was, to be sure, a
great man; his learning was not profound; but his morality, his
humour, and his elegance of writing, set him very high.'

Mr. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the topick of his
conversation the praises of his native country. He began with
saying, that there was very rich land round Edinburgh. Goldsmith,
who had studied physick there, contradicted this, very untruly,
with a sneering laugh. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie
then took new ground, where, I suppose, he thought himself
perfectly safe; for he observed, that Scotland had a great many
noble wild prospects. JOHNSON. 'I believe, Sir, you have a great
many. Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is
remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, Sir, let me
tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the
high road that leads him to England!' This unexpected and pointed
sally produced a roar of applause. After all, however, those, who
admire the rude grandeur of Nature, cannot deny it to Caledonia.

On Saturday, July 9, I found Johnson surrounded with a numerous
levee, but have not preserved any part of his conversation. On the
14th we had another evening by ourselves at the Mitre. It
happening to be a very rainy night, I made some common-place
observations on the relaxation of nerves and depression of spirits
which such weather occasioned; adding, however, that it was good
for the vegetable creation. Johnson, who, as we have already seen,
denied that the temperature of the air had any influence on the
human frame, answered, with a smile of ridicule. 'Why yes, Sir, it
is good for vegetables, and for the animals who eat those
vegetables, and for the animals who eat those animals.' This
observation of his aptly enough introduced a good supper; and I
soon forgot, in Johnson's company, the influence of a moist

Feeling myself now quite at ease as his companion, though I had all
possible reverence for him, I expressed a regret that I could not
be so easy with my father, though he was not much older than
Johnson, and certainly however respectable had not more learning
and greater abilities to depress me. I asked him the reason of
this. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I am a man of the world. I live in the
world, and I take, in some degree, the colour of the world as it
moves along. Your father is a Judge in a remote part of the
island, and all his notions are taken from the old world. Besides,
Sir, there must always be a struggle between a father and son while
one aims at power and the other at independence.'

He enlarged very convincingly upon the excellence of rhyme over
blank verse in English poetry. I mentioned to him that Dr. Adam
Smith, in his lectures upon composition, when I studied under him
in the College of Glasgow, had maintained the same opinion
strenuously, and I repeated some of his arguments. JOHNSON. 'Sir,
I was once in company with Smith, and we did not take to each
other; but had I known that he loved rhyme as much as you tell me
he does, I should have HUGGED him.'

'Idleness is a disease which must be combated; but I would not
advise a rigid adherence to a particular plan of study. I myself
have never persisted in any plan for two days together. A man
ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a
task will do him little good. A young man should read five hours
in a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge.'

To such a degree of unrestrained frankness had he now accustomed
me, that in the course of this evening I talked of the numerous
reflections which had been thrown out against him on account of his
having accepted a pension from his present Majesty. 'Why, Sir,
(said he, with a hearty laugh,) it is a mighty foolish noise that
they make.* I have accepted of a pension as a reward which has
been thought due to my literary merit; and now that I have this
pension, I am the same man in every respect that I have ever been;
I retain the same principles. It is true, that I cannot now curse
(smiling) the House of Hanover; nor would it be decent for me to
drink King James's health in the wine that King George gives me
money to pay for. But, Sir, I think that the pleasure of cursing
the House of Hanover, and drinking King James's health, are amply
overbalanced by three hundred pounds a year.'

* When I mentioned the same idle clamour to him several years
afterwards, he said, with a smile, 'I wish my pension were twice as
large, that they might make twice as much noise.'--BOSWELL.

There was here, most certainly, an affectation of more Jacobitism
than he really had. Yet there is no doubt that at earlier periods
he was wont often to exercise both his pleasantry and ingenuity in
talking Jacobitism. My much respected friend, Dr. Douglas, now
Bishop of Salisbury, has favoured me with the following admirable
instance from his Lordship's own recollection. One day, when
dining at old Mr. Langton's where Miss Roberts, his niece, was one
of the company, Johnson, with his usual complacent attention to the
fair sex, took her by the hand and said, 'My dear, I hope you are a
Jacobite.' Old Mr. Langton, who, though a high and steady Tory,
was attached to the present Royal Family, seemed offended, and
asked Johnson, with great warmth, what he could mean by putting
such a question to his niece? 'Why, Sir, (said Johnson) I meant no
offence to your niece, I meant her a great compliment. A Jacobite,
Sir, believes in the divine right of Kings. He that believes in
the divine right of Kings believes in a Divinity. A Jacobite
believes in the divine right of Bishops. He that believes in the
divine right of Bishops believes in the divine authority of the
Christian religion. Therefore, Sir, a Jacobite is neither an
Atheist nor a Deist. That cannot be said of a Whig; for Whiggism
is a negation of all principle.'*

* He used to tell, with great humour, from my relation to him, the
following little story of my early years, which was literally true:
'Boswell, in the year 1745, was a fine boy, wore a white cockade,
and prayed for King James, till one of his uncles (General Cochran)
gave him a shilling on condition that he should pray for King
George, which he accordingly did. So you see (says Boswell) that
Whigs of all ages are made the same way.'--BOSWELL.

He advised me, when abroad, to be as much as I could with the
Professors in the Universities, and with the Clergy; for from their
conversation I might expect the best accounts of every thing in
whatever country I should be, with the additional advantage of
keeping my learning alive.

It will be observed, that when giving me advice as to my travels,
Dr. Johnson did not dwell upon cities, and palaces, and pictures,
and shows, and Arcadian scenes. He was of Lord Essex's opinion,
who advises his kinsman Roger Earl of Rutland, 'rather to go an
hundred miles to speak with one wise man, than five miles to see a
fair town.'

I described to him an impudent fellow from Scotland, who affected
to be a savage, and railed at all established systems. JOHNSON.
'There is nothing surprizing in this, Sir. He wants to make
himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you
looked at him and called to him to come out. But let him alone,
never mind him, and he'll soon give it over.'

I added, that the same person maintained that there was no
distinction between virtue and vice. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, if the
fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what
honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a
lyar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction
between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us
count our spoons.'

He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and
unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise, and would
yield me great satisfaction when the particulars were faded from my
remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous
coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept
such a journal for some time; and it was no small pleasure to me to
have this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He
counselled me to keep it private, and said I might surely have a
friend who would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I
have been enabled to give the world so many anecdotes, which would
otherwise have been lost to posterity. I mentioned that I was
afraid I put into my journal too many little incidents. JOHNSON.
'There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man.
It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of
having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.'

Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on me, and was so much
struck even with the imperfect account which I gave him of Dr.
Johnson's conversation, that to his honour be it recorded, when I
complained that drinking port and sitting up late with him affected
my nerves for some time after, he said, 'One had better be palsied
at eighteen than not keep company with such a man.'

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

Mr. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson's library, which was
contained in two garrets over his Chambers, where Lintot, son of
the celebrated bookseller of that name, had formerly his warehouse.
I found a number of good books, but very dusty and in great
confusion. The floor was strewed with manuscript leaves, in
Johnson's own handwriting, which I beheld with a degree of
veneration, supposing they perhaps might contain portions of The
Rambler or of Rasselas. I observed an apparatus for chymical
experiments, of which Johnson was all his life very fond. The
place seemed to be very favourable for retirement and meditation.
Johnson told me, that he went up thither without mentioning it to
his servant, when he wanted to study, secure from interruption; for
he would not allow his servant to say he was not at home when he
really was. 'A servant's strict regard for truth, (said he) must
be weakened by such a practice. A philosopher may know that it is
merely a form of denial; but few servants are such nice
distinguishers. If I accustom a servant to tell a lie for ME, have
I not reason to apprehend that he will tell many lies for HIMSELF.'

Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall, who had been my
intimate friend for many years, had at this time chambers in
Farrar's-buildings, at the bottom of Inner Temple-lane, which he
kindly lent me upon my quitting my lodgings, he being to return to
Trinity Hall, Cambridge. I found them particularly convenient for
me, as they were so near Dr. Johnson's.

On Wednesday, July 20, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Dempster, and my uncle Dr.
Boswell, who happened to be now in London, supped with me at these
Chambers. JOHNSON. 'Pity is not natural to man. Children are
always cruel. Savages are always cruel. Pity is acquired and
improved by the cultivation of reason. We may have uneasy
sensations from seeing a creature in distress, without pity; for we
have not pity unless we wish to relieve them. When I am on my way
to dine with a friend, and finding it late, have bid the coachman
make haste, if I happen to attend when he whips his horses, I may
feel unpleasantly that the animals are put to pain, but I do not
wish him to desist. No, Sir, I wish him to drive on.'

Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind was at this time a
fashionable topick. It gave rise to an observation by Mr.
Dempster, that the advantages of fortune and rank were nothing to a
wise man, who ought to value only merit. JOHNSON. 'If man were a
savage, living in the woods by himself, this might be true; but in
civilized society we all depend upon each other, and our happiness
is very much owing to the good opinion of mankind. Now, Sir, in
civilized society, external advantages make us more respected. A
man with a good coat upon his back meets with a better reception
than he who has a bad one. Sir, you may analyse this, and say what
is there in it? But that will avail you nothing, for it is a part
of a general system. Pound St. Paul's Church into atoms, and
consider any single atom; it is, to be sure, good for nothing: but,
put all these atoms together, and you have St. Paul's Church. So
it is with human felicity, which is made up of many ingredients,
each of which may be shewn to be very insignificant. In civilized
society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money will.
Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into the street, and give one
man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which
will respect you most. If you wish only to support nature, Sir
William Petty fixes your allowance at three pounds a year; but as
times are much altered, let us call it six pounds. This sum will
fill your belly, shelter you from the weather, and even get you a
strong lasting coat, supposing it to be made of good bull's hide.
Now, Sir, all beyond this is artificial, and is desired in order to
obtain a greater degree of respect from our fellow-creatures. And,
Sir, if six hundred pounds a year procure a man more consequence,
and, of course, more happiness than six pounds a year, the same
proportion will hold as to six thousand, and so on as far as
opulence can be carried. Perhaps he who has a large fortune may
not be so happy as he who has a small one; but that must proceed
from other causes than from his having the large fortune: for,
coeteris paribus, he who is rich in a civilized society, must be
happier than he who is poor; as riches, if properly used, (and it
is a man's own fault if they are not,) must be productive of the
highest advantages. Money, to be sure, of itself is of no use; for
its only use is to part with it. Rousseau, and all those who deal
in paradoxes, are led away by a childish desire of novelty. When I
was a boy, I used always to choose the wrong side of a debate,
because most ingenious things, that is to say, most new things,
could be said upon it. Sir, there is nothing for which you may not
muster up more plausible arguments, than those which are urged
against wealth and other external advantages. Why, now, there is
stealing; why should it be thought a crime? When we consider by
what unjust methods property has been often acquired, and that what
was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep, where is the harm in
one man's taking the property of another from him? Besides, Sir,
when we consider the bad use that many people make of their
property, and how much better use the thief may make of it, it may
be defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, Sir, the experience
of mankind has discovered stealing to be so very bad a thing, that
they make no scruple to hang a man for it. When I was running
about this town a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the
advantages of poverty; but I was, at the same time, very sorry to
be poor. Sir, all the arguments which are brought to represent
poverty as no evil, shew it to be evidently a great evil. You
never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very
happily upon a plentiful fortune.--So you hear people talking how
miserable a King must be; and yet they all wish to be in his

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

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

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

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

* July 21.

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

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

* This ONE Mrs. Macaulay was the same personage who afterwards made
herself so much known as the celebrated female historian.'--

He said he would go to the Hebrides with me, when I returned from
my travels, unless some very good companion should offer when I was
absent, which he did not think probable; adding, 'There are few
people to whom I take so much to as you.' And when I talked of my
leaving England, he said with a very affectionate air, 'My dear
Boswell, I should be very unhappy at parting, did I think we were
not to meet again.' I cannot too often remind my readers, that
although such instances of his kindness are doubtless very
flattering to me; yet I hope my recording them will be ascribed to
a better motive than to vanity; for they afford unquestionable
evidence of his tenderness and complacency, which some, while they
were forced to acknowledge his great powers, have been so strenuous
to deny.

He maintained that a boy at school was the happiest of human
beings. I supported a different opinion, from which I have never
yet varied, that a man is happier; and I enlarged upon the anxiety
and sufferings which are endured at school. JOHNSON. 'Ah! Sir, a
boy's being flogged is not so severe as a man's having the hiss of
the world against him.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards he entered upon the business of the day, which was to
give me his advice as to a course of study.

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

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

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

Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by the
cold, scolded me, as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy,
saying, 'Why do you shiver?' Sir William Scott, of the Commons,
told me, that when he complained of a head-ache in the post-chaise,
as they were travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated him
in the same manner:

'At your age, Sir, I had no head-ache.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* At Colchester.--ED.

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

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

Next day we got to Harwich to dinner; and my passage in the packet-
boat to Helvoetsluys being secured, and my baggage put on board, we
dined at our inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be
terrible if he should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to
London, and be confined to so dull a place. JOHNSON. 'Don't Sir,
accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. It would
NOT be TERRIBLE, though I WERE to be detained some time here.'

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

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time
together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-
existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely
ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is
not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the
alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty
force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute
it THUS.'

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

1764: AETAT. 55.]--Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the
Langton family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he
passed some time, much to his satisfaction. His friend Bennet
Langton, it will not he doubted, did every thing in his power to
make the place agreeable to so illustrious a guest; and the elder
Mr. Langton and his lady, being fully capable of understanding his
value, were not wanting in attention.

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

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

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

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

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

Not very long after the institution of our club, Sir Joshua
Reynolds was speaking of it to Garrick. 'I like it much, (said
he), I think I shall be of you.' When Sir Joshua mentioned this to
Dr. Johnson, he was much displeased with the actor's conceit.
'HE'LL BE OF US, (said Johnson) how does he know we will PERMIT
him? The first Duke in England has no right to hold such
language.' However, when Garrick was regularly proposed some time
afterwards, Johnson, though he had taken a momentary offence at his
arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he was accordingly
elected, was a most agreeable member, and continued to attend our
meetings to the time of his death.

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

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

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

'That Davies hath a very pretty wife,'

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

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

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

1765: AETAT. 56.]--Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised
Johnson with a spontaneous compliment of the highest academical
honours, by creating him Doctor of Laws.

He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of
ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law and of engaging
in politics. His 'Prayer before the Study of Law' is truly

'Sept. 26, 1765.

'Almighty GOD, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions
are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me,
if it be thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to
direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs
and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge
which I shall attain, to thy glory and my own salvation, for JESUS
CHRIST'S sake. Amen.'

This year was distinguished by his being introduced into the family
of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and
Member of Parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are
not a little amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men
in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of
considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is
natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be
considered as very respectable; and, no doubt, honest industry is
entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too rapid advance of men of
low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by
birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial to the
grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account
of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father: 'He worked at six shillings a
week for twenty years in the great brewery, which afterwards was
his own. The proprietor of it had an only daughter, who was
married to a nobleman. It was not fit that a peer should continue
the business. On the old man's death, therefore, the brewery was
to be sold. To find a purchaser for so large a property was a
difficult matter; and, after some time, it was suggested, that it
would be adviseable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active,
honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer the
whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, security being taken upon
the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years
Thrale paid the purchase-money. He acquired a large fortune, and
lived to be Member of Parliament for Southwark. But what was most
remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches. He
gave his son and daughters the best education. The esteem which
his good conduct procured him from the nobleman who had married his
master's daughter, made him be treated with much attention; and his
son, both at school and at the University of Oxford, associated
with young men of the first rank. His allowance from his father,
after he left college, was splendid; no less than a thousand a
year. This, in a man who had risen as old Thrale did, was a very
extraordinary instance of generosity. He used to say, "If this
young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let
him remember that he has had a great deal in my own time."'

The son, though in affluent circumstances, had good sense enough to
carry on his father's trade, which was of such extent, that I
remember he once told me, he would not quit it for an annuity of
ten thousand a year; 'Not (said he,) that I get ten thousand a year
by it, but it is an estate to a family.' Having left daughters
only, the property was sold for the immense sum of one hundred and
thirty-five thousand pounds; a magnificent proof of what may be
done by fair trade in no long period of time.

Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, of good Welsh
extraction, a lady of lively talents, improved by education. That
Johnson's introduction into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed
so much to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for
his conversation, is very probable and a general supposition: but
it is not the truth. Mr. Murphy, who was intimate with Mr. Thrale,
having spoken very highly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make
them acquainted. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of
an invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so much pleased with
his reception, both by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and they so much
pleased with him, that his invitations to their house were more and
more frequent, till at last he became one of the family, and an
apartment was appropriated to him, both in their house in
Southwark, and in their villa at Streatham.

Johnson had a very sincere esteem for Mr. Thrale, as a man of
excellent principles, a good scholar, well skilled in trade, of a
sound understanding, and of manners such as presented the character
of a plain independent English Squire. As this family will
frequently be mentioned in the course of the following pages, and
as a false notion has prevailed that Mr. Thrale was inferiour, and
in some degree insignificant, compared with Mrs. Thrale, it may be
proper to give a true state of the case from the authority of
Johnson himself in his own words.

'I know no man, (said he,) who is more master of his wife and
family than Thrale. If he but holds up a finger, he is obeyed. It
is a great mistake to suppose that she is above him in literary
attainments. She is more flippant; but he has ten times her
learning: he is a regular scholar; but her learning is that of a
school-boy in one of the lower forms.' My readers may naturally
wish for some representation of the figures of this couple. Mr.
Thrale was tall, well proportioned, and stately. As for Madam, or
my Mistress, by which epithets Johnson used to mention Mrs. Thrale,
she was short, plump, and brisk. She has herself given us a lively
view of the idea which Johnson had of her person, on her appearing
before him in a dark-coloured gown: 'You little creatures should
never wear those sort of clothes, however; they are unsuitable in
every way. What! have not all insects gay colours?' Mr. Thrale
gave his wife a liberal indulgence, both in the choice of their
company, and in the mode of entertaining them. He understood and
valued Johnson, without remission, from their first acquaintance to
the day of his death. Mrs. Thrale was enchanted with Johnson's
conversation, for its own sake, and had also a very allowable
vanity in appearing to be honoured with the attention of so
celebrated a man.

Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than this connection.
He had at Mr. Thrale's all the comforts and even luxuries of life;
his melancholy was diverted, and his irregular habits lessened by
association with an agreeable and well-ordered family. He was
treated with the utmost respect, and even affection. The vivacity
of Mrs. Thrale's literary talk roused him to cheerfulness and
exertion, even when they were alone. But this was not often the
case; for he found here a constant succession of what gave him the
highest enjoyment: the society of the learned, the witty, and the
eminent in every way, who were assembled in numerous companies,
called forth his wonderful powers, and gratified him with
admiration, to which no man could be insensible.

In the October of this year he at length gave to the world his
edition of Shakspeare, which, if it had no other merit but that of
producing his Preface, in which the excellencies and defects of
that immortal bard are displayed with a masterly hand, the nation
would have had no reason to complain.

In 1764 and 1765 it should seem that Dr. Johnson was so busily
employed with his edition of Shakspeare, as to have had little
leisure for any other literary exertion, or, indeed, even for
private correspondence. He did not favour me with a single letter
for more than two years, for which it will appear that he
afterwards apologised.

He was, however, at all times ready to give assistance to his
friends, and others, in revising their works, and in writing for
them, or greatly improving their Dedications. In that courtly
species of composition no man excelled Dr. Johnson. Though the
loftiness of his mind prevented him from ever dedicating in his own
person, he wrote a very great number of Dedications for others.
Some of these, the persons who were favoured with them are
unwilling should be mentioned, from a too anxious apprehension, as
I think, that they might be suspected of having received larger
assistance; and some, after all the diligence I have bestowed, have
escaped my enquiries. He told me, a great many years ago, 'he
believed he had dedicated to all the Royal Family round;' and it
was indifferent to him what was the subject of the work dedicated,
provided it were innocent. He once dedicated some Musick for the
German Flute to Edward, Duke of York. In writing Dedications for
others, he considered himself as by no means speaking his own

I returned to London in February,* and found Dr. Johnson in a good
house in Johnson's Court, Fleet-street, in which he had
accommodated Miss Williams with an apartment on the ground floor,
while Mr. Levet occupied his post in the garret: his faithful
Francis was still attending upon him. He received me with much
kindness. The fragments of our first conversation, which I have
preserved, are these:

I told him that Voltaire, in a conversation with me, had
distinguished Pope and Dryden thus:--'Pope drives a handsome
chariot, with a couple of neat trim nags; Dryden a coach, and six
stately horses.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, the truth is, they both
drive coaches and six; but Dryden's horses are either galloping or
stumbling: Pope's go at a steady even trot.' He said of
Goldsmith's Traveller, which had been published in my absence,
'There has not been so fine a poem since Pope's time.'

* 1766.

Talking of education, 'People have now a-days, (said he,) got a
strange opinion that every thing should be taught by lectures.
Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good as reading the
books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can
be best taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be
shewn. You may teach chymistry by lectures.--You might teach
making of shoes by lectures!'

At night I supped with him at the Mitre tavern, that we might renew
our social intimacy at the original place of meeting. But there
was now a considerable difference in his way of living. Having had
an illness, in which he was advised to leave off wine, he had, from
that period, continued to abstain from it, and drank only water, or

I told him that a foreign friend of his, whom I had met with
abroad, was so wretchedly perverted to infidelity, that he treated
the hopes of immortality with brutal levity; and said, 'As man dies
like a dog, let him lie like a dog.' JOHNSON. 'IF he dies like a
dog, LET him lie like a dog.' I added, that this man said to me,
'I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I
know how bad I am.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he must be very singular in
his opinion, if he thinks himself one of the best of men; for none
of his friends think him so.'--He said, 'no honest man could be a
Deist; for no man could be so after a fair examination of the
proofs of Christianity.' I named Hume. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; Hume
owned to a clergyman in the bishoprick of Durham, that he had never
read the New Testament with attention.' I mentioned Hume's notion,
that all who are happy are equally happy; a little miss with a new
gown at a dancing school ball, a general at the head of a
victorious army, and an orator, after having made an eloquent
speech in a great assembly. JOHNSON. 'Sir, that all who are
happy, are equally happy, is not true. A peasant and a philosopher
may be equally SATISFIED, but not equally HAPPY. Happiness
consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness. A peasant
has not capacity for having equal happiness with a philosopher.'

Dr. Johnson was very kind this evening, and said to me 'You have
now lived five-and-twenty years, and you have employed them well.'
'Alas, Sir, (said I,) I fear not. Do I know history? Do I know
mathematicks? Do I know law?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, though you may
know no science so well as to be able to teach it, and no
profession so well as to be able to follow it, your general mass of
knowledge of books and men renders you very capable to make
yourself master of any science, or fit yourself for any
profession.' I mentioned that a gay friend had advised me against
being a lawyer, because I should be excelled by plodding block-
heads. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, in the formulary and statutory part of
law, a plodding block-head may excel; but in the ingenious and
rational part of it a plodding block-head can never excel.'

I talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the world, by
courting great men, and asked him whether he had ever submitted to
it. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I never was near enough to great men, to
court them. You may be prudently attached to great men and yet
independent. You are not to do what you think wrong; and, Sir, you
are to calculate, and not pay too dear for what you get. You must
not give a shilling's worth of court for six-pence worth of good.
But if you can get a shilling's worth of good for six-pence worth
of court, you are a fool if you do not pay court.'

I talked to him a great deal of what I had seen in Corsica, and of
my intention to publish an account of it. He encouraged me by
saying, 'You cannot go to the bottom of the subject; but all that
you tell us will be new to us. Give us as many anecdotes as you

Our next meeting at the Mitre was on Saturday the 15th of February,
when I presented to him my old and most intimate friend, the
Reverend Mr. Temple, then of Cambridge. I having mentioned that I
had passed some time with Rousseau in his wild retreat, and having
quoted some remark made by Mr. Wilkes, with whom I had spent many
pleasant hours in Italy, Johnson said (sarcastically,) 'It seems,
Sir, you have kept very good company abroad, Rousseau and Wilkes!'
Thinking it enough to defend one at a time, I said nothing as to my
gay friend, but answered with a smile, 'My dear Sir, you don't call
Rousseau bad company. Do you really think HIM a bad man?'
JOHNSON. 'Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don't talk
with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst
of men; a rascal who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has
been. Three or four nations have expelled him; and it is a shame
that he is protected in this country.' BOSWELL. 'I don't deny,
Sir, but that his novel may, perhaps, do harm; but I cannot think
his intention was bad.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, that will not do. We
cannot prove any man's intention to be bad. You may shoot a man
through the head, and say you intended to miss him; but the Judge
will order you to be hanged. An alleged want of intention, when
evil is committed, will not be allowed in a court of justice.
Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence
for his transportation, than that of any felon who has gone from
the Old Bailey these many years. Yes, I should like to have him
work in the plantations.' BOSWELL. 'Sir, do you think him as bad
a man as Voltaire?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, it is difficult to settle
the proportion of iniquity between them.'

On his favourite subject of subordination, Johnson said, 'So far is
it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people
can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident
superiority over the other.'

I mentioned the advice given us by philosophers, to console
ourselves, when distressed or embarrassed, by thinking of those who
are in a worse situation than ourselves. This, I observed, could
not apply to all, for there must be some who have nobody worse than
they are. JOHNSON. 'Why, to be sure, Sir, there are; but they
don't know it. There is no being so poor and so contemptible, who
does not think there is somebody still poorer, and still more

As my stay in London at this time was very short, I had not many
opportunities of being with Dr. Johnson; but I felt my veneration
for him in no degree lessened, by my having seen multoram hominum
mores et urbes. On the contrary, by having it in my power to
compare him with many of the most celebrated persons of other
countries, my admiration of his extraordinary mind was increased
and confirmed.

The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared in his manners, was
more striking to me now, from my having been accustomed to the
studied smooth complying habits of the Continent; and I clearly
recognised in him, not without respect for his honest conscientious
zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treating every
attempt to unhinge or weaken good principles.

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