Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Life of Johnson by [James] Boswell

Part 8 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

JOHNSON. 'If Betterton were to walk into this room with Foote,
Foote would soon drive him out of it. Foote, Sir, quatenus Foote,
has powers superiour to them all.'

On Monday, September 22, when at breakfast, I unguardedly said to
Dr. Johnson, 'I wish I saw you and Mrs. Macaulay together.' He
grew very angry; and, after a pause, while a cloud gathered on his
brow, he burst out, 'No, Sir; you would not see us quarrel, to make
you sport. Don't you know that it is very uncivil to PIT two
people against one another?' Then, checking himself, and wishing
to be more gentle, he added, 'I do not say you should be hanged or
drowned for this; but it IS very uncivil.' Dr. Taylor thought him
in the wrong, and spoke to him privately of it; but I afterwards
acknowledged to Johnson that I was to blame, for I candidly owned,
that I meant to express a desire to see a contest between Mrs.
Macaulay and him; but then I knew how the contest would end; so
that I was to see him triumph. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you cannot be sure
how a contest will end; and no man has a right to engage two people
in a dispute by which their passions may be inflamed, and they may
part with bitter resentment against each other. I would sooner
keep company with a man from whom I must guard my pockets, than
with a man who contrives to bring me into a dispute with somebody
that he may hear it. This is the great fault of ------,(naming one
of our friends,) endeavouring to introduce a subject upon which he
knows two people in the company differ.' BOSWELL. 'But he told
me, Sir, he does it for instruction.' JOHNSON. 'Whatever the
motive be, Sir, the man who does so, does very wrong. He has no
more right to instruct himself at such risk, than he has to make
two people fight a duel, that he may learn how to defend himself.'

He found great fault with a gentleman of our acquaintance for
keeping a bad table. 'Sir, (said he,) when a man is invited to
dinner, he is disappointed if he does not get something good. I
advised Mrs. Thrale, who has no card-parties at her house, to give
sweet-meats, and such good things, in an evening, as are not
commonly given, and she would find company enough come to her; for
every body loves to have things which please the palate put in
their way, without trouble or preparation.' Such was his attention
to the minutiae of life and manners.

Mr. Burke's Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, on the affairs of
America, being mentioned, Johnson censured the composition much,
and he ridiculed the definition of a free government, viz. 'For any
practical purpose, it is what the people think so.'--'I will let
the King of France govern me on those conditions, (said he,) for it
is to be governed just as I please.' And when Dr. Taylor talked of
a girl being sent to a parish workhouse, and asked how much she
could be obliged to work, 'Why, (said Johnson,) as much as is
reasonable: and what is that? as much as SHE THINKS reasonable.'

Dr. Johnson obligingly proposed to carry me to see Islam, a
romantick scene, now belonging to a family of the name of Port, but
formerly the seat of the Congreves. I suppose it is well described
in some of the Tours. Johnson described it distinctly and vividly,
at which I could not but express to him my wonder; because, though
my eyes, as he observed, were better than his, I could not by any
means equal him in representing visible objects. I said, the
difference between us in this respect was as that between a man who
has a bad instrument, but plays well on it, and a man who has a
good instrument, on which he can play very imperfectly.

I recollect a very fine amphitheatre, surrounded with hills covered
with woods, and walks neatly formed along the side of a rocky
steep, on the quarter next the house with recesses under
projections of rock, overshadowed with trees; in one of which
recesses, we were told, Congreve wrote his Old Bachelor. We viewed
a remarkable natural curiosity at Islam; two rivers bursting near
each other from the rock, not from immediate springs, but after
having run for many miles under ground. Plott, in his History of
Staffordshire, gives an account of this curiosity; but Johnson
would not believe it, though we had the attestation of the
gardener, who said, he had put in corks, where the river Manyfold
sinks into the ground, and had catched them in a net, placed before
one of the openings where the water bursts out. Indeed, such
subterraneous courses of water are found in various parts of our

Talking of Dr. Johnson's unwillingness to believe extraordinary
things I ventured to say, 'Sir, you come near Hume's argument
against miracles, "That it is more probable witnesses should lie,
or be mistaken, than that they should happen." JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, Hume, taking the proposition simply, is right. But the
Christian revelation is not proved by the miracles alone, but as
connected with prophecies, and with the doctrines in confirmation
of which the miracles were wrought.'

In the evening, a gentleman-farmer, who was on a visit at Dr.
Taylor's, attempted to dispute with Johnson in favour of Mungo
Campbell, who shot Alexander, Earl of Eglintoune, upon his having
fallen, when retreating from his Lordship, who he believed was
about to seize his gun, as he had threatened to do. He said, he
should have done just as Campbell did. JOHNSON. 'Whoever would do
as Campbell did, deserves to be hanged; not that I could, as a
juryman, have found him legally guilty of murder; but I am glad
they found means to convict him.' The gentleman-farmer said, 'A
poor man has as much honour as a rich man; and Campbell had THAT to
defend.' Johnson exclaimed, 'A poor man has no honour.' The
English yeoman, not dismayed, proceeded: 'Lord Eglintoune was a
damned fool to run on upon Campbell, after being warned that
Campbell would shoot him if he did.' Johnson, who could not bear
any thing like swearing, angrily replied, "He was NOT a DAMNED
fool: he only thought too well of Campbell. He did not believe
Campbell would be such a DAMNED scoundrel, as to do so DAMNED a
thing.' His emphasis on DAMNED, accompanied with frowning looks,
reproved his opponent's want of decorum in HIS presence.

During this interview at Ashbourne, Johnson seemed to be more
uniformly social, cheerful, and alert, than I had almost ever seen
him. He was prompt on great occasions and on small. Taylor, who
praised every thing of his own to excess; in short, 'whose geese
were all swans,' as the proverb says, expatiated on the excellence
of his bull-dog, which, he told us, was 'perfectly well shaped.'
Johnson, after examining the animal attentively, thus repressed the
vain-glory of our host:--'No, Sir, he is NOT well shaped; for there
is not the quick transition from the thickness of the fore-part, to
the TENUITY--the thin part--behind,--which a bull-dog ought to
have.' This TENUITY was the only HARD WORD that I heard him use
during this interview, and it will be observed, he instantly put
another expression in its place. Taylor said, a small bull-dog was
as good as a large one. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; for, in proportion to
his size, he has strength: and your argument would prove, that a
good bull-dog may be as small as a mouse.' It was amazing how he
entered with perspicuity and keenness upon every thing that
occurred in conversation. Most men, whom I know, would no more
think of discussing a question about a bull-dog, than of attacking
a bull.

I cannot allow any fragment whatever that floats in my memory
concerning the great subject of this work to be lost. Though a
small particular may appear trifling to some, it will be relished
by others; while every little spark adds something to the general
blaze: and to please the true, candid, warm admirers of Johnson,
and in any degree increase the splendour of his reputation, I bid
defiance to the shafts of ridicule, or even of malignity. Showers
of them have been discharged at my Journal of a Tour to the
Hebrides; yet it still sails unhurt along the stream of time, and,
as an attendant upon Johnson,

'Pursues the triumph, and partakes the gale.'

One morning after breakfast, when the sun shone bright, we walked
out together, and 'pored' for some time with placid indolence upon
an artificial water-fall, which Dr. Taylor had made by building a
strong dyke of stone across the river behind the garden. It was
now somewhat obstructed by branches of trees and other rubbish,
which had come down the river, and settled close to it. Johnson,
partly from a desire to see it play more freely, and partly from
that inclination to activity which will animate, at times, the most
inert and sluggish mortal, took a long pole which was lying on a
bank, and pushed down several parcels of this wreck with painful
assiduity, while I stood quietly by, wondering to behold the sage
thus curiously employed, and smiling with an humorous satisfaction
each time when he carried his point. He worked till he was quite
out of breath; and having found a large dead cat so heavy that he
could not move it after several efforts, 'Come,' said he, (throwing
down the pole,) 'YOU shall take it now;' which I accordingly did,
and being a fresh man, soon made the cat tumble over the cascade.
This may be laughed at as too trifling to record; but it is a small
characteristick trait in the Flemish picture which I give of my
friend, and in which, therefore I mark the most minute particulars.
And let it be remembered, that Aesop at play is one of the
instructive apologues of antiquity.

Talking of Rochester's Poems, he said, he had given them to Mr.
Steevens to castrate for the edition of the poets, to which he was
to write Prefaces. Dr. Taylor (the only time I ever heard him say
any thing witty) observed, that if Rochester had been castrated
himself, his exceptionable poems would not have been written.' I
asked if Burnet had not given a good Life of Rochester. JOHNSON.
'We have a good Death: there is not much Life.' I asked whether
Prior's Poems were to be printed entire: Johnson said they were. I
mentioned Lord Hailes's censure of Prior, in his Preface to a
collection of Sacred Poems, by various hands, published by him at
Edinburgh a great many years ago, where he mentions, 'those impure
tales which will be the eternal opprobrium of their ingenious
authour.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, Lord Hailes has forgot. There is
nothing in Prior that will excite to lewdness. If Lord Hailes
thinks there is, he must be more combustible than other people.' I
instanced the tale of Paulo Purganti and his Wife. JOHNSON. Sir,
there is nothing there, but that his wife wanted to be kissed when
poor Paulo was out of pocket. No, Sir, Prior is a lady's book. No
lady is ashamed to have it standing in her library.'

The hypochondriack disorder being mentioned, Dr. Johnson did not
think it so common as I supposed. 'Dr. Taylor (said he,) is the
same one day as another. Burke and Reynolds are the same;
Beauclerk, except when in pain, is the same. I am not so myself;
but this I do not mention commonly.'

Dr. Johnson advised me to-day, to have as many books about me as I
could; that I might read upon any subject upon which I had a desire
for instruction at the time. 'What you read THEN (said he,) you
will remember; but if you have not a book immediately ready, and
the subject moulds in your mind, it is a chance if you again have a
desire to study it.' He added, 'If a man never has an eager desire
for instruction, he should prescribe a task for himself. But it is
better when a man reads from immediate inclination.'

He repeated a good many lines of Horace's Odes, while we were in
the chaise. I remember particularly the Ode Eheu fugaces.

He told me that Bacon was a favourite authour with him; but he had
never read his works till he was compiling the English Dictionary,
in which, he said, I might see Bacon very often quoted. Mr. Seward
recollects his having mentioned, that a Dictionary of the English
Language might be compiled from Bacon's writings alone, and that he
had once an intention of giving an edition of Bacon, at least of
his English works, and writing the Life of that great man. Had he
executed this intention, there can be no doubt that he would have
done it in a most masterly manner.

Wishing to be satisfied what degree of truth there was in a story
which a friend of Johnson's and mine had told me to his
disadvantage, I mentioned it to him in direct terms; and it was to
this effect: that a gentleman who had lived in great intimacy with
him, shewn him much kindness, and even relieved him from a
spunging-house, having afterwards fallen into bad circumstances,
was one day, when Johnson was at dinner with him, seized for debt,
and carried to prison; that Johnson sat still undisturbed, and went
on eating and drinking; upon which the gentleman's sister, who was
present, could not suppress her indignation: 'What, Sir, (said
she,) are you so unfeeling, as not even to offer to go to my
brother in his distress; you who have been so much obliged to him?'
And that Johnson answered, 'Madam, I owe him no obligation; what he
did for me he would have done for a dog.'

Johnson assured me, that the story was absolutely false: but like a
man conscious of being in the right, and desirous of completely
vindicating himself from such a charge, he did not arrogantly rest
on a mere denial, and on his general character, but proceeded
thus:--'Sir, I was very intimate with that gentleman, and was once
relieved by him from an arrest; but I never was present when he was
arrested, never knew that he was arrested, and I believe he never
was in difficulties after the time when he relieved me. I loved
him much; yet, in talking of his general character, I may have
said, though I do not remember that I ever did say so, that as his
generosity proceeded from no principle, but was a part of his
profusion, he would do for a dog what he would do for a friend: but
I never applied this remark to any particular instance, and
certainly not to his kindness to me. If a profuse man, who does
not value his money, and gives a large sum to a whore, gives half
as much, or an equally large sum to relieve a friend, it cannot be
esteemed as virtue. This was all that I could say of that
gentleman; and, if said at all, it must have been said after his
death. Sir, I would have gone to the world's end to relieve him.
The remark about the dog, if made by me, was such a sally as might
escape one when painting a man highly.'

On Tuesday, September 23, Johnson was remarkably cordial to me. It
being necessary for me to return to Scotland soon, I had fixed on
the next day for my setting out, and I felt a tender concern at the
thought of parting with him. He had, at this time, frankly
communicated to me many particulars, which are inserted in this
work in their proper places; and once, when I happened to mention
that the expence of my jaunt would come to much more than I had
computed, he said, 'Why, Sir, if the expence were to be an
inconvenience, you would have reason to regret it: but, if you have
had the money to spend, I know not that you could have purchased as
much pleasure with it in any other way.'

I perceived that he pronounced the word heard, as if spelt with a
double e, heerd, instead of sounding it herd, as is most usually
done. He said, his reason was, that if it was pronounced herd,
there would be a single exception from the English pronunciation of
the syllable ear, and he thought it better not to have that

In the evening our gentleman-farmer, and two others, entertained
themselves and the company with a great number of tunes on the
fiddle. Johnson desired to have 'Let ambition fire thy mind,'
played over again, and appeared to give a patient attention to it;
though he owned to me that he was very insensible to the power of
musick. I told him, that it affected me to such a degree, as often
to agitate my nerves painfully, producing in my mind alternate
sensations of pathetick dejection, so that I was ready to shed
tears; and of daring resolution, so that I was inclined to rush
into the thickest part of the battle. 'Sir, (said he,) I should
never hear it, if it made me such a fool.'

This evening, while some of the tunes of ordinary composition were
played with no great skill, my frame was agitated, and I was
conscious of a generous attachment to Dr. Johnson, as my preceptor
and friend, mixed with an affectionate regret that he was an old
man, whom I should probably lose in a short time. I thought I
could defend him at the point of my sword. My reverence and
affection for him were in full glow. I said to him, 'My dear Sir,
we must meet every year, if you don't quarrel with me.' JOHNSON.
'Nay, Sir, you are more likely to quarrel with me, than I with you.
My regard for you is greater almost than I have words to express;
but I do not choose to be always repeating it; write it down in the
first leaf of your pocket-book, and never doubt of it again.'

I talked to him of misery being 'the doom of man' in this life, as
displayed in his Vanity of Human Wishes. Yet I observed that
things were done upon the supposition of happiness; grand houses
were built, fine gardens were made, splendid places of publick
amusement were contrived, and crowded with company. JOHNSON.
'Alas, Sir, these are all only struggles for happiness. When I
first entered Ranelagh, it gave an expansion and gay sensation to
my mind, such as I never experienced any where else. But, as
Xerxes wept when he viewed his immense army, and considered that
not one of that great multitude would be alive a hundred years
afterwards, so it went to my heart to consider that there was not
one in all that brilliant circle, that was not afraid to go home
and think; but that the thoughts of each individual there, would be
distressing when alone.'

I suggested, that being in love, and flattered with hopes of
success; or having some favourite scheme in view for the next day,
might prevent that wretchedness of which we had been talking.
JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, it may sometimes be so as you suppose; but my
conclusion is in general but too true.'

While Johnson and I stood in calm conference by ourselves in Dr.
Taylor's garden, at a pretty late hour in a serene autumn night,
looking up to the heavens, I directed the discourse to the subject
of a future state. My friend was in a placid and most benignant
frame. 'Sir, (said he,) I do not imagine that all things will be
made clear to us immediately after death, but that the ways of
Providence will be explained to us very gradually.' He talked to
me upon this aweful and delicate question in a gentle tone, and as
if afraid to be decisive.

After supper I accompanied him to his apartment, and at my request
he dictated to me an argument in favour of the negro who was then
claiming his liberty, in an action in the Court of Session in
Scotland. He had always been very zealous against slavery in every
form, in which I, with all deference, thought that he discovered 'a
zeal without knowledge.' Upon one occasion, when in company with
some very grave men at Oxford, his toast was, 'Here's to the next
insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies.' His violent
prejudice against our West Indian and American settlers appeared
whenever there was an opportunity. Towards the conclusion of his
Taxation no Tyranny, he says, 'how is it that we hear the loudest
YELPS for liberty among the drivers of negroes?'

When I said now to Johnson, that I was afraid I kept him too late
up. 'No, Sir, (said he,) I don't care though I sit all night with
you.' This was an animated speech from a man in his sixty-ninth

Had I been as attentive not to displease him as I ought to have
been, I know not but this vigil might have been fulfilled; but I
unluckily entered upon the controversy concerning the right of
Great-Britain to tax America, and attempted to argue in favour of
our fellow-subjects on the other side of the Atlantick. I insisted
that America might be very well governed, and made to yield
sufficient revenue by the means of INFLUENCE, as exemplified in
Ireland, while the people might be pleased with the imagination of
their participating of the British constitution, by having a body
of representatives, without whose consent money could not be
exacted from them. Johnson could not bear my thus opposing his
avowed opinion, which he had exerted himself with an extreme degree
of heat to enforce; and the violent agitation into which he was
thrown, while answering, or rather reprimanding me, alarmed me so,
that I heartily repented of my having unthinkingly introduced the
subject. I myself, however, grew warm, and the change was great,
from the calm state of philosophical discussion in which we had a
little before been pleasingly employed.

We were fatigued by the contest, which was produced by my want of
caution; and he was not then in the humour to slide into easy and
cheerful talk. It therefore so happened, that we were after an
hour or two very willing to separate and go to bed.

On Wednesday, September 24, I went into Dr. Johnson's room before
he got up, and finding that the storm of the preceding night was
quite laid, I sat down upon his bed-side, and he talked with as
much readiness and good-humour as ever. He recommended to me to
plant a considerable part of a large moorish farm which I had
purchased, and he made several calculations of the expence and
profit: for he delighted in exercising his mind on the science of
numbers. He pressed upon me the importance of planting at the
first in a very sufficient manner, quoting the saying 'In bello non
licet bis errare:' and adding, 'this is equally true in planting.'

I spoke with gratitude of Dr. Taylor's hospitality; and, as
evidence that it was not on account of his good table alone that
Johnson visited him often, I mentioned a little anecdote which had
escaped my friend's recollection, and at hearing which repeated, he
smiled. One evening, when I was sitting with him, Frank delivered
this message: 'Sir, Dr. Taylor sends his compliments to you, and
begs you will dine with him to-morrow. He has got a hare.'--'My
compliments (said Johnson,) and I'll dine with him--hare or

After breakfast I departed, and pursued my journey northwards. I
took my post-chaise from the Green Man, a very good inn at
Ashbourne, the mistress of which, a mighty civil gentlewoman,
courtseying very low, presented me with an engraving of the sign of
her house; to which she had subjoined, in her own hand-writing, an
address in such singular simplicity of style, that I have preserved
it pasted upon one of the boards of my original Journal at this
time, and shall here insert it for the amusement of my readers:--

'M. KILLINGLEY's duty waits upon Mr. Boswell, is exceedingly
obliged to him for this favour; whenever he comes this way, hopes
for a continuance of the same. Would Mr. Boswell name the house to
his extensive acquaintance, it would be a singular favour conferr'd
on one who has it not in her power to make any other return but her
most grateful thanks, and sincerest prayers for his happiness in
time, and in a blessed eternity.--Tuesday morn.'

I cannot omit a curious circumstance which occurred at Edensor-inn,
close by Chatsworth, to survey the magnificence of which I had gone
a considerable way out of my road to Scotland. The inn was then
kept by a very jolly landlord, whose name, I think, was Malton. He
happened to mention that 'the celebrated Dr. Johnson had been in
his house.' I inquired WHO this Dr. Johnson was, that I might hear
mine host's notion of him. 'Sir, (said he,) Johnson, the great
writer; ODDITY, as they call him. He's the greatest writer in
England; he writes for the ministry; he has a correspondence
abroad, and lets them know what's going on.'

My friend, who had a thorough dependance upon the authenticity of
my relation without any EMBELLISHMENT, as FALSEHOOD or FICTION is
too gently called, laughed a good deal at this representation of

On Wednesday, March 18,* I arrived in London, and was informed by
good Mr. Francis that his master was better, and was gone to Mr.
Thrale's at Streatham, to which place I wrote to him, begging to
know when he would be in town. He was not expected for some time;
but next day having called on Dr. Taylor, in Dean's-yard,
Westminster, I found him there, and was told he had come to town
for a few hours. He met me with his usual kindness, but instantly
returned to the writing of something on which he was employed when
I came in, and on which he seemed much intent. Finding him thus
engaged, I made my visit very short.

* 1778.

On Friday, March 20, I found him at his own house, sitting with
Mrs. Williams, and was informed that the room formerly allotted to
me was now appropriated to a charitable purpose; Mrs. Desmoulins,
and I think her daughter, and a Miss Carmichael, being all lodged
in it. Such was his humanity, and such his generosity, that Mrs.
Desmoulins herself told me, he allowed her half-a-guinea a week.
Let it be remembered, that this was above a twelfth part of his

His liberality, indeed, was at all periods of his life very
remarkable. Mr. Howard, of Lichfield, at whose father's house
Johnson had in his early years been kindly received, told me, that
when he was a boy at the Charter-House, his father wrote to him to
go and pay a visit to Mr. Samuel Johnson, which he accordingly did,
and found him in an upper room, of poor appearance. Johnson
received him with much courteousness, and talked a great deal to
him, as to a school-boy, of the course of his education, and other
particulars. When he afterwards came to know and understand the
high character of this great man, he recollected his condescension
with wonder. He added, that when he was going away, Mr. Johnson
presented him with half-a-guinea; and this, said Mr. Howard, was at
a time when he probably had not another.

We retired from Mrs. Williams to another room. Tom Davies soon
after joined us. He had now unfortunately failed in his
circumstances, and was much indebted to Dr. Johnson's kindness for
obtaining for him many alleviations of his distress. After he went
away, Johnson blamed his folly in quitting the stage, by which he
and his wife got five hundred pounds a year. I said, I believed it
was owing to Churchill's attack upon him,

'He mouths a sentence, as curs mouth a bone.'

JOHNSON. 'I believe so too, Sir. But what a man is he, who is to
be driven from the stage by a line? Another line would have driven
him from his shop.'

He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's; where, as Mr.
Strahan once complained to me, 'he was in a great measure absorbed
from the society of his old friends.' I was kept in London by
business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that a separation from him
for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a
year, when we were at four hundred miles distance. I went to
Streatham on Monday, March 30. Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale
made a very characteristical remark:--'I do not know for certain
what will please Dr. Johnson: but I know for certain that it will
displease him to praise any thing, even what he likes,

At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on
account of luxury,--increase of London,--scarcity of provisions,--
and other such topicks. 'Houses (said he,) will be built till
rents fall: and corn is more plentiful now than ever it was.'

I had before dinner repeated a ridiculous story told me by an old
man who had been a passenger with me in the stage-coach to-day.
Mrs. Thrale, having taken occasion to allude to it in talking to
me, called it 'The story told you by the old WOMAN.'--'Now, Madam,
(said I,) give me leave to catch you in the fact; it was not an old
WOMAN, but an old MAN, whom I mentioned as having told me this.' I
presumed to take an opportunity, in presence of Johnson, of shewing
this lively lady how ready she was, unintentionally, to deviate
from exact authenticity of narration.

Next morning, while we were at breakfast, Johnson gave a very
earnest recommendation of what he himself practised with the utmost
conscientiousness: I mean a strict attention to truth, even in the
most minute particulars. 'Accustom your children (said he,)
constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they,
when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it
pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation
from truth will end.' BOSWELL. 'It may come to the door: and when
once an account is at all varied in one circumstance, it may by
degrees be varied so as to be totally different from what really
happened.' Our lively hostess, whose fancy was impatient of the
rein, fidgeted at this, and ventured to say, 'Nay, this is too
much. If Mr. Johnson should forbid me to drink tea, I would
comply, as I should feel the restraint only twice a day; but little
variations in narrative must happen a thousand times a day, if one
is not perpetually watching.' JOHNSON. 'Well, Madam, and you
OUGHT to be perpetually watching. It is more from carelessness
about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much
falsehood in the world.'

He was indeed so much impressed with the prevalence of falsehood,
voluntary or unintentional, that I never knew any person who upon
hearing an extraordinary circumstance told, discovered more of the
incredulus odi. He would say, with a significant look and decisive
tone, 'It is not so. Do not tell this again.' He inculcated upon
all his friends the importance of perpetual vigilance against the
slightest degrees of falsehood; the effect of which, as Sir Joshua
Reynolds observed to me, has been, that all who were of his SCHOOL
are distinguished for a love of truth and accuracy, which they
would not have possessed in the same degree, if they had not been
acquainted with Johnson.

Talking of ghosts, he said, 'It is wonderful that five thousand
years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still
it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of
the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is
against it; but all belief is for it.'

He said, 'John Wesley's conversation is good, but he is never at
leisure. He is always obliged to go at a certain hour. This is
very disagreeable to a man who loves to fold his legs and have out
his talk, as I do.'

On Friday, April 3, I dined with him in London, in a company* where
were present several eminent men, whom I shall not name, but
distinguish their parts in the conversation by different letters.

* The Club. Hill identifies E. as Burke and J. as Sir Joshua

E. 'We hear prodigious complaints at present of emigration. I am
convinced that emigration makes a country more populous.' J.
'That sounds very much like a paradox.' E. 'Exportation of men,
like exportation of all other commodities, makes more be produced.'
JOHNSON. 'But there would be more people were there not
emigration, provided there were food for more.' E. 'No; leave a
few breeders, and you'll have more people than if there were no
emigration.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, it is plain there will be more
people, if there are more breeders. Thirty cows in good pasture
will produce more calves than ten cows, provided they have good
bulls.' E. 'There are bulls enough in Ireland.' JOHNSON.
(smiling,) 'So, Sir, I should think from your argument.'

E. 'I believe, in any body of men in England, I should have been
in the Minority; I have always been in the Minority.' P. 'The
House of Commons resembles a private company. How seldom is any
man convinced by another's argument; passion and pride rise against
it.' R. 'What would be the consequence, if a Minister, sure of a
majority in the House of Commons, should resolve that there should
be no speaking at all upon his side.' E. 'He must soon go out.
That has been tried; but it was found it would not do.' . . . .

JOHNSON. 'I have been reading Thicknesse's Travels, which I think
are entertaining.' BOSWELL. 'What, Sir, a good book?' JOHNSON.
'Yes, Sir, to read once; I do not say you are to make a study of
it, and digest it; and I believe it to be a true book in his

E. 'From the experience which I have had,--and I have had a great
deal,--I have learnt to think BETTER of mankind.' JOHNSON. 'From
my experience I have found them worse in commercial dealings, more
disposed to cheat, than I had any notion of; but more disposed to
do one another good than I had conceived.' J. 'Less just and more
beneficent.' JOHNSON. 'And really it is wonderful, considering
how much attention is necessary for men to take care of themselves,
and ward off immediate evils which press upon them, it is wonderful
how much they do for others. As it is said of the greatest liar,
that he tells more truth than falsehood; so it may be said of the
worst man, that he does more good than evil.' BOSWELL. 'Perhaps
from experience men may be found HAPPIER than we suppose.'
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; the more we enquire, we shall find men the less

E. 'I understand the hogshead of claret, which this society was
favoured with by our friend the Dean, is nearly out; I think he
should be written to, to send another of the same kind. Let the
request be made with a happy ambiguity of expression, so that we
may have the chance of his sending IT also as a present.' JOHNSON.
'I am willing to offer my services as secretary on this occasion.'
P. 'As many as are for Dr. Johnson being secretary hold up your
hands.--Carried unanimously.' BOSWELL. 'He will be our Dictator.'
JOHNSON. 'No, the company is to dictate to me. I am only to write
for wine; and I am quite disinterested, as I drink none; I shall
not be suspected of having forged the application. I am no more
than humble SCRIBE.' E. 'Then you shall PREscribe.' BOSWELL.
'Very well. The first play of words to-day.' J. 'No, no; the
BULLS in Ireland.' JOHNSON. 'Were I your Dictator you should have
no wine. It would be my business cavere ne quid detrimenti
Respublica caperet, and wine is dangerous. Rome was ruined by
luxury,' (smiling.) E. 'If you allow no wine as Dictator, you
shall not have me for your master of horse.'

On Saturday, April 4, I drank tea with Johnson at Dr. Taylor's,
where he had dined.

He was very silent this evening; and read in a variety of books:
suddenly throwing down one, and taking up another.

He talked of going to Streatham that night. TAYLOR. 'You'll be
robbed if you do: or you must shoot a highwayman. Now I would
rather be robbed than do that; I would not shoot a highwayman.'
JOHNSON. 'But I would rather shoot him in the instant when he is
attempting to rob me, than afterwards swear against him at the Old-
Bailey, to take away his life, after he has robbed me. I am surer
I am right in the one case than in the other. I may be mistaken as
to the man, when I swear: I cannot be mistaken, if I shoot him in
the act. Besides, we feel less reluctance to take away a man's
life, when we are heated by the injury, than to do it at a distance
of time by an oath, after we have cooled.' BOSWELL. 'So, Sir, you
would rather act from the motive of private passion, than that of
publick advantage.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, when I shoot the
highwayman I act from both.' BOSWELL. 'Very well, very well--
There is no catching him.' JOHNSON. 'At the same time one does
not know what to say. For perhaps one may, a year after, hang
himself from uneasiness for having shot a man. Few minds are fit
to be trusted with so great a thing.' BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, you
would not shoot him?' JOHNSON. 'But I might be vexed afterwards
for that too.'

Thrale's carriage not having come for him, as he expected, I
accompanied him some part of the way home to his own house. I told
him, that I had talked of him to Mr. Dunning a few days before, and
had said, that in his company we did not so much interchange
conversation, as listen to him; and that Dunning observed, upon
this, 'One is always willing to listen to Dr. Johnson:' to which I
answered, 'That is a great deal from you, Sir.'--'Yes, Sir, (said
Johnson,) a great deal indeed. Here is a man willing to listen, to
whom the world is listening all the rest of the year.' BOSWELL.
'I think, Sir, it is right to tell one man of such a handsome
thing, which has been said of him by another. It tends to increase
benevolence.' JOHNSON. 'Undoubtedly it is right, Sir.'

On Tuesday, April 7, I breakfasted with him at his house. He said,
'nobody was content.' I mentioned to him a respectable person in
Scotland whom he knew; and I asserted, that I really believed he
was always content. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir, he is not content with the
present; he has always some new scheme, some new plantation,
something which is future. You know he was not content as a
widower; for he married again.' BOSWELL. 'But he is not
restless.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he is only locally at rest. A chymist
is locally at rest; but his mind is hard at work. This gentleman
has done with external exertions. It is too late for him to engage
in distant projects.' BOSWELL. 'He seems to amuse himself quite
well; to have his attention fixed, and his tranquillity preserved
by very small matters. I have tried this; but it would not do with
me.' JOHNSON. (laughing,) 'No, Sir; it must be born with a man to
be contented to take up with little things. Women have a great
advantage that they may take up with little things, without
disgracing themselves: a man cannot, except with fiddling. Had I
learnt to fiddle, I should have done nothing else.' BOSWELL.
'Pray, Sir, did you ever play on any musical instrument?' JOHNSON.
'No, Sir. I once bought me a flagelet; but I never made out a
tune.' BOSWELL. 'A flagelet, Sir!--so small an instrument? I
should have liked to hear you play on the violoncello. THAT should
have been YOUR instrument.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I might as well have
played on the violoncello as another; but I should have done
nothing else. No, Sir; a man would never undertake great things,
could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting. Dempster's
sister undertook to teach me; but I could not learn it.' BOSWELL.
'So, Sir; it will be related in pompous narrative, "Once for his
amusement he tried knotting; nor did this Hercules disdain the
distaff."' JOHNSON. 'Knitting of stockings is a good amusement.
As a freeman of Aberdeen I should be a knitter of stockings.' He
asked me to go down with him and dine at Mr. Thrale's at Streatham,
to which I agreed. I had lent him An Account of Scotland, in 1702,
written by a man of various enquiry, an English chaplain to a
regiment stationed there. JOHNSON. 'It is sad stuff, Sir,
miserably written, as books in general then were. There is now an
elegance of style universally diffused. No man now writes so ill
as Martin's Account of the Hebrides is written. A man could not
write so ill, if he should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to
write, and he'll do better.'

He talked to me with serious concern of a certain female friend's
'laxity of narration, and inattention to truth.'--'I am as much
vexed (said he,) at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to
her, as at the thing itself. I told her, "Madam, you are contented
to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have
died for, rather than bear."--You know, Sir, the highest of mankind
have died rather than bear to be told they had uttered a falsehood.
Do talk to her of it: I am weary.'

BOSWELL. 'Was not Dr. John Campbell a very inaccurate man in his
narrative, Sir? He once told me, that he drank thirteen bottles of
port at a sitting.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I do not know that
Campbell ever lied with pen and ink; but you could not entirely
depend on any thing he told you in conversation: if there was fact
mixed with it. However, I loved Campbell: he was a solid orthodox
man: he had a reverence for religion. Though defective in
practice, he was religious in principle; and he did nothing grossly
wrong that I have heard.'

Talking of drinking wine, he said, 'I did not leave off wine,
because I could not bear it; I have drunk three bottles of port
without being the worse for it. University College has witnessed
this.' BOSWELL. 'Why, then, Sir, did you leave it off?' JOHNSON.
'Why, Sir, because it is so much better for a man to be sure that
he is never to be intoxicated, never to lose the power over
himself. I shall not begin to drink wine again, till I grow old,
and want it.' BOSWELL. 'I think, Sir, you once said to me, that
not to drink wine was a great deduction from life.' JOHNSON. 'It
is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a
diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being
rational.' BOSWELL. 'But if we could have pleasure always, should
not we be happy? The greatest part of men would compound for
pleasure.' JOHNSON. 'Supposing we could have pleasure always, an
intellectual man would not compound for it. The greatest part of
men would compound, because the greatest part of men are gross.'

I mentioned to him that I had become very weary in a company where
I heard not a single intellectual sentence, except that 'a man who
had been settled ten years in Minorca was become a much inferiour
man to what he was in London, because a man's mind grows narrow in
a narrow place.' JOHNSON. 'A man's mind grows narrow in a narrow
place, whose mind is enlarged only because he has lived in a large
place: but what is got by books and thinking is preserved in a
narrow place as well as in a large place. A man cannot know modes
of life as well in Minorca as in London; but he may study
mathematicks as well in Minorca.' BOSWELL. 'I don't know, Sir: if
you had remained ten years in the Isle of Col, you would not have
been the man that you now are.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, if I had been
there from fifteen to twenty-five; but not if from twenty-five to
thirty-five.' BOSWELL. 'I own, Sir, the spirits which I have in
London make me do every thing with more readiness and vigour. I
can talk twice as much in London as any where else.'

Of Goldsmith he said, 'He was not an agreeable companion, for he
talked always for fame. A man who does so never can be pleasing.
The man who talks to unburthen his mind is the man to delight you.
An eminent friend of ours is not so agreeable as the variety of his
knowledge would otherwise make him, because he talks partly from

Soon after our arrival at Thrale's, I heard one of the maids
calling eagerly on another, to go to Dr. Johnson. I wondered what
this could mean. I afterwards learnt, that it was to give her a
Bible, which he had brought from London as a present to her.

He was for a considerable time occupied in reading Memoires de
Fontenelle, leaning and swinging upon the low gate into the court,
without his hat.

At dinner, Mrs. Thrale expressed a wish to go and see Scotland.
JOHNSON. 'Seeing Scotland, Madam, is only seeing a worse England.
It is seeing the flower gradually fade away to the naked stalk.
Seeing the Hebrides, indeed, is seeing quite a different scene.'

On Thursday, April 9, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's,
with the Bishop of St. Asaph, (Dr. Shipley,) Mr. Allan Ramsay, Mr.
Gibbon, Mr. Cambridge, and Mr. Langton.

Goldsmith being mentioned, Johnson observed, that it was long
before his merit came to be acknowledged. That he once complained
to him, in ludicrous terms of distress, 'Whenever I write any
thing, the publick MAKE A POINT to know nothing about it:' but that
his Traveller brought him into high reputation. LANGTON. 'There
is not one bad line in that poem; not one of Dryden's careless
verses. SIR JOSHUA. 'I was glad to hear Charles Fox say, it was
one of the finest poems in the English language.' LANGTON. 'Why
was you glad? You surely had no doubt of this before.' JOHNSON.
'No; the merit of The Traveller is so well established, that Mr.
Fox's praise cannot augment it, nor his censure diminish it.' SIR
JOSHUA. 'But his friends may suspect they had too great a
partiality for him.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, the partiality of his
friends was always against him. It was with difficulty we could
give him a hearing. Goldsmith had no settled notions upon any
subject; so he talked always at random. It seemed to be his
intention to blurt out whatever was in his mind, and see what would
become of it. He was angry too, when catched in an absurdity; but
it did not prevent him from falling into another the next minute.
I remember Chamier, after talking with him for some time, said,
"Well, I do believe he wrote this poem himself: and, let me tell
you, that is believing a great deal." Chamier once asked him, what
he meant by slow, the last word in the first line of The Traveller,

"Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow."

Did he mean tardiness of locomotion? Goldsmith, who would say
something without consideration, answered, "Yes." I was sitting
by, and said, "No, Sir; you do not mean tardiness of locomotion;
you mean, that sluggishness of mind which comes upon a man in
solitude." Chamier believed then that I had written the line as
much as if he had seen me write it. Goldsmith, however, was a man,
who, whatever he wrote, did it better than any other man could do.
He deserved a place in Westminster-Abbey, and every year he lived,
would have deserved it better. He had, indeed, been at no pains to
fill his mind with knowledge. He transplanted it from one place to
another; and it did not settle in his mind; so he could not tell
what was in his own books.'

We talked of living in the country. JOHNSON. 'No wise man will go
to live in the country, unless he has something to do which can be
better done in the country. For instance: if he is to shut himself
up for a year to study a science, it is better to look out to the
fields, than to an opposite wall. Then, if a man walks out in the
country, there is nobody to keep him from walking in again: but if
a man walks out in London, he is not sure when he shall walk in
again. A great city is, to be sure, the school for studying life;
and "The proper study of mankind is man," as Pope observes.'
BOSWELL. 'I fancy London is the best place for society; though I
have heard that the very first society of Paris is still beyond any
thing that we have here.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, I question if in Paris
such a company as is sitting round this table could be got together
in less than half a year. They talk in France of the felicity of
men and women living together: the truth is, that there the men are
not higher than the women, they know no more than the women do, and
they are not held down in their conversation by the presence of

We talked of old age. Johnson (now in his seventieth year,) said,
'It is a man's own fault, it is from want of use, if his mind grows
torpid in old age.' The Bishop asked, if an old man does not lose
faster than he gets. JOHNSON. 'I think not, my Lord, if he exerts
himself.' One of the company rashly observed, that he thought it
was happy for an old man that insensibility comes upon him.
JOHNSON. (with a noble elevation and disdain,) 'No, Sir, I should
never be happy by being less rational.' BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH.
'Your wish then, Sir, is [Greek text omitted].' JOHNSON. 'Yes, my

This season there was a whimsical fashion in the newspapers of
applying Shakspeare's words to describe living persons well known
in the world; which was done under the title of Modern Characters
from Shakspeare; many of which were admirably adapted. The fancy
took so much, that they were afterwards collected into a pamphlet.
Somebody said to Johnson, across the table, that he had not been in
those characters. 'Yes (said he,) I have. I should have been
sorry to be left out.' He then repeated what had been applied to

'I must borrow GARAGANTUA'S mouth.'

Miss Reynolds not perceiving at once the meaning of this, he was
obliged to explain it to her, which had something of an aukward and
ludicrous effect. 'Why, Madam, it has a reference to me, as using
big words, which require the mouth of a giant to pronounce them.
Garagantua is the name of a giant in Rabelais.' BOSWELL. 'But,
Sir, there is another amongst them for you:

"He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for his power to thunder."'

JOHNSON. 'There is nothing marked in that. No, Sir, Garagantua is
the best.' Notwithstanding this ease and good humour, when I, a
little while afterwards, repeated his sarcasm on Kenrick, which was
received with applause, he asked, 'WHO said that?' and on my
suddenly answering, Garagantua, he looked serious, which was a
sufficient indication that he did not wish it to be kept up.

When we went to the drawing-room there was a rich assemblage.
Besides the company who had been at dinner, there were Mr. Garrick,
Mr. Harris of Salisbury, Dr. Percy, Dr. Burney, Honourable Mrs.
Cholmondeley, Miss Hannah More, &c. &c.

After wandering about in a kind of pleasing distraction for some
time, I got into a corner, with Johnson, Garrick, and Harris.
GARRICK. (to Harris,) 'Pray, Sir, have you read Potter's
Aeschylus?' HARRIS. 'Yes; and think it pretty.' GARRICK. (to
Johnson,) 'And what think you, Sir, of it?' JOHNSON. 'I thought
what I read of it VERBIAGE: but upon Mr. Harris's recommendation, I
will read a play. (To Mr. Harris,) Don't prescribe two.' Mr.
Harris suggested one, I do not remember which. JOHNSON. 'We must
try its effect as an English poem; that is the way to judge of the
merit of a translation. Translations are, in general, for people
who cannot read the original.' I mentioned the vulgar saying, that
Pope's Homer was not a good representation of the original.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is the greatest work of the kind that has ever
been produced.' BOSWELL. 'The truth is, it is impossible
perfectly to translate poetry. In a different language it may be
the same tune, but it has not the same tone. Homer plays it on a
bassoon; Pope on a flagelet.' HARRIS. 'I think Heroick poetry is
best in blank verse; yet it appears that rhyme is essential to
English poetry, from our deficiency in metrical quantities. In my
opinion, the chief excellence of our language is numerous prose.'
JOHNSON. 'Sir William Temple was the first writer who gave cadence
to English prose. Before his time they were careless of
arrangement, and did not mind whether a sentence ended with an
important word or an insignificant word, or with what part of
speech it was concluded.'

GARRICK. 'Of all the translations that ever were attempted, I
think Elphinston's Martial the most extraordinary. He consulted me
upon it, who am a little of an epigrammatist myself, you know. I
told him freely, "You don't seem to have that turn." I asked him
if he was serious; and finding he was, I advised him against
publishing. Why, his translation is more difficult to understand
than the original. I thought him a man of some talents; but he
seems crazy in this.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, you have done what I had not
courage to do. But he did not ask my advice, and I did not force
it upon him, to make him angry with me.' GARRICK. 'But as a
friend, Sir--.' JOHNSON. 'Why, such a friend as I am with him--
no.' GARRICK. 'But if you see a friend going to tumble over a
precipice?' JOHNSON. 'That is an extravagant case, Sir. You are
sure a friend will thank you for hindering him from tumbling over a
precipice; but, in the other case, I should hurt his vanity, and do
him no good. He would not take my advice. His brother-in-law,
Strahan, sent him a subscription of fifty pounds, and said he would
send him fifty more, if he would not publish.' GARRICK. 'What!
eh! is Strahan a good judge of an Epigram? Is not he rather an
OBTUSE man, eh?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, he may not be a judge of an
Epigram: but you see he is a judge of what is not an Epigram.'
BOSWELL. 'It is easy for you, Mr. Garrick, to talk to an authour
as you talked to Elphinston; you, who have been so long the manager
of a theatre, rejecting the plays of poor authours. You are an old
Judge, who have often pronounced sentence of death. You are a
practiced surgeon, who have often amputated limbs; and though this
may have been for the good of your patients, they cannot like you.
Those who have undergone a dreadful operation, are not very fond of
seeing the operator again.' GARRICK. 'Yes, I know enough of that.
There was a reverend gentleman, (Mr. Hawkins,) who wrote a tragedy,
the SIEGE of something, which I refused.' HARRIS. 'So, the siege
was raised.' JOHNSON. 'Ay, he came to me and complained; and told
me, that Garrick said his play was wrong in the CONCOCTION. Now,
what is the concoction of a play?' (Here Garrick started, and
twisted himself, and seemed sorely vexed; for Johnson told me, he
believed the story was true.) GARRICK. 'I--I--I--said FIRST
concoction.' JOHNSON. (smiling,) 'Well, he left out FIRST. And
Rich, he said, refused him IN FALSE ENGLISH: he could shew it under
his hand.' GARRICK. 'He wrote to me in violent wrath, for having
refused his play: "Sir, this is growing a very serious and terrible
affair. I am resolved to publish my play. I will appeal to the
world; and how will your judgement appear?" I answered, "Sir,
notwithstanding all the seriousness, and all the terrours, I have
no objection to your publishing your play; and as you live at a
great distance, (Devonshire, I believe,) if you will send it to me,
I will convey it to the press." I never heard more of it, ha! ha!

On Friday, April 10, I found Johnson at home in the morning. We
resumed the conversation of yesterday. He put me in mind of some
of it which had escaped my memory, and enabled me to record it more
perfectly than I otherwise could have done. He was much pleased
with my paying so great attention to his recommendation in 1763,
the period when our acquaintance began, that I should keep a
journal; and I could perceive he was secretly pleased to find so
much of the fruit of his mind preserved; and as he had been used to
imagine and say that he always laboured when he said a good thing--
it delighted him, on a review, to find that his conversation teemed
with point and imagery.

I said to him, 'You were yesterday, Sir, in remarkably good humour:
but there was nothing to offend you, nothing to produce irritation
or violence. There was no bold offender. There was not one
capital conviction. It was a maiden assize. You had on your white

He found fault with our friend Langton for having been too silent.
'Sir, (said I,) you will recollect, that he very properly took up
Sir Joshua for being glad that Charles Fox had praised Goldsmith's
Traveller, and you joined him.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, I knocked Fox
on the head, without ceremony. Reynolds is too much under Fox and
Burke at present. He is under the Fox star and the Irish
constellation. He is always under some planet.' BOSWELL. 'There
is no Fox star.' JOHNSON. 'But there is a dog star.' BOSWELL.
'They say, indeed, a fox and a dog are the same animal.'

We dined together with Mr. Scott (now Sir William Scott his
Majesty's Advocate General,) at his chambers in the Temple, nobody
else there. The company being small, Johnson was not in such
spirits as he had been the preceding day, and for a considerable
time little was said.

Talking of fame, for which there is so great a desire, I observed
how little there is of it in reality, compared with the other
objects of human attention. 'Let every man recollect, and he will
be sensible how small a part of his time is employed in talking or
thinking of Shakspeare, Voltaire, or any of the most celebrated men
that have ever lived, or are now supposed to occupy the attention
and admiration of the world. Let this be extracted and compressed;
into what a narrow space will it go!' I then slily introduced Mr.
Garrick's fame, and his assuming the airs of a great man. JOHNSON.
'Sir, it is wonderful how LITTLE Garrick assumes. No, Sir, Garrick
fortunam reverenter habet. Consider, Sir: celebrated men, such as
you have mentioned, have had their applause at a distance; but
Garrick had it dashed in his face, sounded in his ears, and went
home every night with the plaudits of a thousand in his CRANIUM.
Then, Sir, Garrick did not FIND, but MADE his way to the tables,
the levees, and almost the bed-chambers of the great. Then, Sir,
Garrick had under him a numerous body of people; who, from fear of
his power, and hopes of his favour, and admiration of his talents,
were constantly submissive to him. And here is a man who has
advanced the dignity of his profession. Garrick has made a player
a higher character.' SCOTT. 'And he is a very sprightly writer
too.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir; and all this supported by great wealth
of his own acquisition. If all this had happened to me, I should
have had a couple of fellows with long poles walking before me, to
knock down every body that stood in the way. Consider, if all this
had happened to Cibber or Quin, they'd have jumped over the moon--
Yet Garrick speaks to US.' (smiling.) BOSWELL. 'And Garrick is a
very good man, a charitable man.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, a liberal man.
He has given away more money than any man in England. There may be
a little vanity mixed; but he has shewn, that money is not his
first object.' BOSWELL. 'Yet Foote used to say of him, that he
walked out with an intention to do a generous action; but, turning
the corner of a street, he met with the ghost of a half-penny,
which frightened him.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, that is very true,
too; for I never knew a man of whom it could be said with less
certainty to-day, what he will do to-morrow, than Garrick; it
depends so much on his humour at the time.' SCOTT. 'I am glad to
hear of his liberality. He has been represented as very saving.'
JOHNSON. 'With his domestick saving we have nothing to do. I
remember drinking tea with him long ago, when Peg Woffington made
it, and he grumbled at her for making it too strong.* He had then
begun to feel money in his purse, and did not know when he should
have enough of it.'

* When Johnson told this little anecdote to Sir Joshua Reynolds, he
mentioned a circumstance which he omitted to-day:--'Why, (said
Garrick,) it is as red as blood.'--BOSWELL.

We talked of war. JOHNSON. 'Every man thinks meanly of himself
for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.'
BOSWELL. 'Lord Mansfield does not.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, if Lord
Mansfield were in a company of General Officers and Admirals who
have been in service, he would shrink; he'd wish to creep under the
table.' BOSWELL. 'No; he'd think he could TRY them all.'
JOHNSON. 'Yes, if he could catch them: but they'd try him much
sooner. No, Sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden
both present in any company, and Socrates to say, "Follow me, and
hear a lecture on philosophy;" and Charles, laying his hand on his
sword, to say, "Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;" a man would be
ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal; yet
it is strange.'

He talked of Mr. Charles Fox, of whose abilities he thought highly,
but observed, that he did not talk much at our CLUB. I have heard
Mr. Gibbon remark, 'that Mr. Fox could not be afraid of Dr.
Johnson; yet he certainly was very shy of saying any thing in Dr.
Johnson's presence.'

He expressed great indignation at the imposture of the Cock-lane
Ghost, and related, with much satisfaction, how he had assisted in
detecting the cheat, and had published an account of it in the
news-papers. Upon this subject I incautiously offended him, by
pressing him with too many questions, and he shewed his
displeasure. I apologised, saying that 'I asked questions in order
to be instructed and entertained; I repaired eagerly to the
fountain; but that the moment he gave me a hint, the moment he put
a lock upon the well, I desisted.'--'But, Sir, (said he), that is
forcing one to do a disagreeable thing:' and he continued to rate
me. 'Nay, Sir, (said I,) when you have put a lock upon the well,
so that I can no longer drink, do not make the fountain of your wit
play upon me and wet me.'

He sometimes could not bear being teazed with questions. I was
once present when a gentleman asked so many as, 'What did you do,
Sir?' 'What did you say, Sir?' that he at last grew enraged, and
said, 'I will not be put to the QUESTION. Don't you consider, Sir,
that these are not the manners of a gentleman? I will not be
baited with WHAT, and WHY; what is this? what is that? why is a
cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?' The gentleman, who
was a good deal out of countenance, said, 'Why, Sir, you are so
good, that I venture to trouble you.' Johnson. 'Sir, my being so
GOOD is no reason why you should be so ILL.'

He talked with an uncommon animation of travelling into distant
countries; that the mind was enlarged by it, and that an
acquisition of dignity of character was derived from it. He
expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall
of China. I catched it for the moment, and said I really believed
I should go and see the wall of China had I not children, of whom
it was my duty to take care. 'Sir, (said he,) by doing so, you
would do what would be of importance in raising your children to
eminence. There would be a lustre reflected upon them from your
spirit and curiosity. They would be at all times regarded as the
children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China. I am
serious, Sir.'

When we had left Mr. Scott's, he said 'Will you go home with me?'
'Sir, (said I,) it is late; but I'll go with you for three
minutes.' JOHNSON. 'Or four.' We went to Mrs. Williams's room,
where we found Mr. Allen the printer, who was the landlord of his
house in Bolt-court, a worthy, obliging man, and his very old
acquaintance; and what was exceedingly amusing, though he was of a
very diminutive size, he used, even in Johnson's presence, to
imitate the stately periods and slow and solemn utterance of the
great man.--I this evening boasted, that although I did not write
what is called stenography, or short-hand, in appropriated
characters devised for the purpose, I had a method of my own of
writing half words, and leaving out some altogether so as yet to
keep the substance and language of any discourse which I had heard
so much in view, that I could give it very completely soon after I
had taken it down.

On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner. He and I,
and Mrs. Williams, went to dine with the Reverend Dr. Percy.

And here I shall record a scene of too much heat between Dr.
Johnson and Dr. Percy, which I should have suppressed, were it not
that it gave occasion to display the truely tender and benevolent
heart of Johnson, who, as soon as he found a friend was at all hurt
by any thing which he had 'said in his wrath,' was not only prompt
and desirous to be reconciled, but exerted himself to make ample

Books of Travels having been mentioned, Johnson praised Pennant
very highly, as he did at Dunvegan, in the Isle of Sky. Dr. Percy,
knowing himself to be the heir male of the ancient Percies, and
having the warmest and most dutiful attachment to the noble House
of Northumberland, could not sit quietly and hear a man praised,
who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick-Castle and the Duke's
pleasure grounds, especially as he thought meanly of his travels.
He therefore opposed Johnson eagerly. JOHNSON. 'Pennant in what
he has said of Alnwick, has done what he intended; he has made you
very angry.' PERCY. 'He has said the garden is TRIM, which is
representing it like a citizen's parterre, when the truth is, there
is a very large extent of fine turf and gravel walks.' JOHNSON.
'According to your own account, Sir, Pennant is right. It IS trim.
Here is grass cut close, and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that
trim? The extent is nothing against that; a mile may be as trim as
a square yard. Your extent puts me in mind of the citizen's
enlarged dinner, two pieces of roast-beef, and two puddings. There
is no variety, no mind exerted in laying out the ground, no trees.'
PERCY. 'He pretends to give the natural history of Northumberland,
and yet takes no notice of the immense number of trees planted
there of late.' JOHNSON. 'That, Sir, has nothing to do with the
NATURAL history; that is CIVIL history. A man who gives the
natural history of the oak, is not to tell how many oaks have been
planted in this place or that. A man who gives the natural history
of the cow, is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington.
The animal is the same, whether milked in the Park or at
Islington.' PERCY. 'Pennant does not describe well; a carrier who
goes along the side of Loch-lomond would describe it better.'
JOHNSON. 'I think he describes very well.' PERCY. 'I travelled
after him.' JOHNSON. 'And I travelled after him.' PERCY. 'But,
my good friend, you are short-sighted, and do not see so well as I
do.' I wondered at Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. Johnson said
nothing at the time; but inflammable particles were collecting for
a cloud to burst. In a little while Dr. Percy said something more
in disparagement of Pennant. JOHNSON. (pointedly,) 'This is the
resentment of a narrow mind, because he did not find every thing in
Northumberland.' PERCY. (feeling the stroke,) 'Sir, you may be as
rude as you please.' JOHNSON. 'Hold, Sir! Don't talk of
rudeness; remember, Sir, you told me (puffing hard with passion
struggling for a vent,) I was shortsighted. We have done with
civility. We are to be as rude as we please.' PERCY. 'Upon my
honour, Sir, I did not mean to be uncivil.' JOHNSON. 'I cannot
say so, Sir; for I DID mean to be uncivil, thinking YOU had been
uncivil.' Dr. Percy rose, ran up to him, and taking him by the
hand, assured him affectionately that his meaning had been
misunderstood; upon which a reconciliation instantly took place.
JOHNSON. 'My dear Sir, I am willing you shall HANG Pennant.'
PERCY. (resuming the former subject,) 'Pennant complains that the
helmet is not hung out to invite to the hall of hospitality. Now I
never heard that it was a custom to hang out a HELMET.' JOHNSON.
'Hang him up, hang him up.' BOSWELL. (humouring the joke,) 'Hang
out his skull instead of a helmet, and you may drink ale out of it
in your hall of Odin, as he is your enemy; that will be truly
ancient. THERE will be Northern Antiquities.' JOHNSON. 'He's a
WHIG, Sir; a SAD DOG. (smiling at his own violent expressions,
merely for political difference of opinion.) But he's the best
traveller I ever read; he observes more things than any one else

On Monday, April 13, I dined with Johnson at Mr. Langton's, where
were Dr. Porteus, then Bishop of Chester, now of London, and Dr.
Stinton. He was at first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he
said nothing but 'Pretty baby,' to one of the children. Langton
said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Johnson's
conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could
repeat a complete chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, from
the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus:--

'CHAP. LXXII. Concerning snakes.

'There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.'

Mr. Topham Beauclerk came in the evening, and he and Dr. Johnson
and I staid to supper. It was mentioned that Dr. Dodd had once
wished to be a member of THE LITERARY CLUB. JOHNSON. 'I should be
sorry if any of our Club were hanged. I will not say but some of
them deserve it.' BEAUCLERK. (supposing this to be aimed at
persons for whom he had at that time a wonderful fancy, which,
however, did not last long,) was irritated, and eagerly said, 'You,
Sir, have a friend, (naming him) who deserves to be hanged; for he
speaks behind their backs against those with whom he lives on the
best terms, and attacks them in the newspapers. HE certainly ought
to be KICKED.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, we all do this in some degree,
"Veniam petimus damusque vicissim." To be sure it may be done so
much, that a man may deserve to be kicked.' BEAUCLERK. 'He is
very malignant.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; he is not malignant. He is
mischievous, if you will. He would do no man an essential injury;
he may, indeed, love to make sport of people by vexing their
vanity. I, however, once knew an old gentleman who was absolutely
malignant. He really wished evil to others, and rejoiced at it.'
BOSWELL. 'The gentleman, Mr. Beauclerk, against whom you are so
violent, is, I know, a man of good principles.' BEAUCLERK. 'Then
he does not wear them out in practice.'

Dr. Johnson, who, as I have observed before, delighted in
discrimination of character, and having a masterly knowledge of
human nature, was willing to take men as they are, imperfect and
with a mixture of good and bad qualities, I suppose though he had
said enough in defence of his friend, of whose merits,
notwithstanding his exceptional points, he had a just value; and
added no more on the subject.

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

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

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

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

Dr. Mayo having asked Johnson's opinion of Soame Jenyns's View of
the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion;--JOHNSON. 'I
think it a pretty book; not very theological indeed; and there
seems to be an affectation of ease and carelessness, as if it were
not suitable to his character to be very serious about the matter.'
BOSWELL. 'He may have intended this to introduce his book the
better among genteel people, who might be unwilling to read too
grave a treatise. There is a general levity in the age. We have
physicians now with bag-wigs; may we not have airy divines, at
least somewhat less solemn in their appearance than they used to
be?' JOHNSON. 'Jenyns might mean as you say.' BOSWELL. 'YOU
should like his book, Mrs. Knowles, as it maintains, as you FRIENDS
do, that courage is not a Christian virtue.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'Yes,
indeed, I like him there; but I cannot agree with him, that
friendship is not a Christian virtue.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam,
strictly speaking, he is right. All friendship is preferring the
interest of a friend, to the neglect, or, perhaps, against the
interest of others; so that an old Greek said, "He that has FRIENDS
has NO FRIEND." Now Christianity recommends universal benevolence,
to consider all men as our brethren, which is contrary to the
virtue of friendship, as described by the ancient philosophers.
Surely, Madam, your sect must approve of this; for, you call all
men FRIENDS.' MRS. KNOWLES. 'We are commanded to do good to all
men, "but especially to them who are of the household of Faith."'
JOHNSON. 'Well, Madam. The household of Faith is wide enough.'
MRS. KNOWLES. 'But, Doctor, our Saviour had twelve Apostles, yet
there was ONE whom he LOVED. John was called "the disciple whom
JESUS loved."' JOHNSON. (with eyes sparkling benignantly,) 'Very
well, indeed, Madam. You have said very well.' BOSWELL. 'A fine
application. Pray, Sir, had you ever thought of it?' JOHNSON. 'I
had not, Sir.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 17, being Good Friday, I waited on Johnson, as usual. I
observed at breakfast that although it was a part of his abstemious
discipline on this most solemn fast, to take no milk in his tea,
yet when Mrs. Desmoulins inadvertently poured it in, he did not
reject it. I talked of the strange indecision of mind, and
imbecility in the common occurrences of life, which we may observe
in some people. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I am in the habit of getting
others to do things for me.' BOSWELL. 'What, Sir! have you that
weakness?' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I always think afterwards I
should have done better for myself.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Vidit et erubuit lympha pudica DEUM,"

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

"Mira cano, Sol occubuit, nox nulla secuta est."'

* Johnson said to me afterwards, 'Sir, they respected me for my
literature: and yet it was not great but by comparison. Sir, it is
amazing how little literature there is in the world.'--BOSWELL

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

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

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

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

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

"O my coevals! remnants of yourselves."'

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

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

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

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

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

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

* I am not entirely without suspicion that Johnson may have felt a
little momentary envy; for no man loved the good things of this
life better than he did and he could not but be conscious that he
deserved a much larger share of them, than he ever had.--BOSWELL.

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

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

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

Nor could he patiently endure to hear that such respect as he
thought due only to higher intellectual qualities, should be
bestowed on men of slighter, though perhaps more amusing talents.
I told him, that one morning, when I went to breakfast with
Garrick, who was very vain of his intimacy with Lord Camden, he
accosted me thus:--'Pray now, did you--did you meet a little lawyer
turning the corner, eh?'--'No, Sir, (said I). Pray what do you
mean by the question?'--'Why, (replied Garrick, with an affected
indifference, yet as if standing on tip-toe,) Lord Camden has this
moment left me. We have had a long walk together.' JOHNSON.
'Well, Sir, Garrick talked very properly. Lord Camden WAS A LITTLE
LAWYER to be associating so familiarly with a player.'

Sir Joshua Reynolds observed, with great truth, that Johnson
considered Garrick to be as it were his PROPERTY. He would allow
no man either to blame or to praise Garrick in his presence,
without contradicting him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Saturday, April 25, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's,
with the learned Dr. Musgrave, Counsellor Leland of Ireland, son to
the historian, Mrs. Cholmondeley, and some more ladies.

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

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

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

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

Book of the day: