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in him to come into company without merriment, as for a highwayman to take the road without his pistols.”—“Has not a great deal of wit, Sir?"-Johnson. “ I do not think so, Sir. He is, indeed, continually attempting wit, but he fails. And I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it *."
A writer of deserved eminence being mentioned, Johnson said, “Why, Sir, he is a man of good parts ; but being originally poor, he has got a love of mean company and low jocularity ; a very bad thing, Sir. To laugh is good, as to talk is good. But you ought no more to think it enough if you laugh, than you are to think it enough if you talk. You may laugh in as many ways as you talk; and surely every way of talking that is practised cannot be esteemed."
One being named as a very learned man.“ Yes, Sir (said Johnson), he has a great deal of learning ; but it never lies straight.
* Garrick once remarked of the Doctor himself, “ Ra. belais and all other wits are nothing compared with him.You may be diverted by them; but Johnson gives you a forcible hug, and shakes laughter out of you, whether you will or no.” Mrs. Thrale juftly and wittily said, that “ Johnson's conversation was much too strong for a person accustomed to obsequiousness and flattery ; it was muftard in a young child's mouth."
There is never one idea by the side of another;
“ People (he remarked) may be taken in
When Mr. B. one day complained of having dined at a splendid table without hearing one fentence of conversation worthy of being remembered, he faid, “Sir, there feldom is any such conversation."— BOSWELL.
"Why then meet at table?"-Johnson. “Why to eat and drink together, and promote kindness; ;. and, Sir, this is better done when there is no solid conversation ; for when there is, people differ in opinion, and get into bad humour, or some of the company who are not capable of such
conversation, are left out, and feel themselves uncasy."
An author of considerable eminence having engrossed a good share of a conversation, and having said nothing but what was trifling and insignificant,Johnson,when he was gone, observed, “ It is wonderful what a difference there fometimes is between a man's powers of writing and of talking
******* writes with great spirit, but is a poor talker ; had he held his tongue we might have supposed him to have been restrained by modesty: but he has spoken a great deal to-day, and you have heard what stuff it was.'
Talking of an acquaintance distinguished for knowing an uncommon variety of miscellaneous articles both in antiquities and polite literature, he observed, “ You know, Sir, he runs about with little weight upon his mind.” And talking of another very ingenious gentleman, who from the warmth of his temper was at variance with many of his acquaintance, and wished to avoid them, he said, “Sir, hc leads the life of an outlaw."
Being irritated by hearing a gentleman ask Mr. Levett a variety of questions concerning him when he was sitting by, he broke out,“Sir, you have but two topics, yourself and me. I am sick of both.”-“ A man (said he) should
not talk of himself, nor much of any particular person. He should take care not to be made a proverb ; and therefore should avoid having any one topick of which people can say, "We shall hear him upon it.' There was a Dr. Oldfield, who was always talking of the Duke of Marlborough; he came into a coffee-house one day, and told that his Grace had spoken in the House of Lords for half an hour. “ Did he indeed speak for half an hour ?' (faid Belchier, the surgeon ;) Yes.' 'And what did he say of Dr. Oldfield ?" "Nothing.' 'Why then, Sir, he was very ungrateful; for Dr. Oldfield could not have spoken for a quarter of an hour without saying something of him.'
One evening, in company, an ingenious and learned gentleman read a letter of compliment which he had received from one of the Professors of a Foreign University. Johnson, in an irritable fit, thinking there was too much oftentation, said, “ I never receive any of these tributes of applause from abroad. One instance I recollect of a foreign publication, in which mention is made of l'illustre Lockman.”
A learned gentleman, who in the course of conversation wished to inform the company of this simple fact, that the Counsel upon the circuit at Shrewsbury were much bitten by fleas, took seven or eight minutes in relating it cir
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cumstantially. He in a plentitude of phrase told, that large bales of woollen cloth were lodged in the town-hall; that, by reason of this, fieas nestled there in prodigious numbers ; that the lodgings of the Counsel were near the town-hall; and that those little animals moved from place to place with wonderful agility. Johnson fat in great impatience till the gentleman had finished his tedious narrative, and then burst out (playfully however), “ It is a pity, Sir, that you have not seen a lion ; for a flea has taken you such a time, that a lion must have
a twelvemonth.” A dull country magistrate once gave Johnson a long tedious account of his exercising his criminal jurisdiction, the result of which was his having sentenced four convicts to transportation. Johnson, in an agony of impatience to get rid of luch a companion, exclaimed, “I heartily wilh, Sir, that I were a fifth.”
At another time, having argued at some length with a pertinacious gentleman, his opponent, who had talked in a very puzzling manner, happened to say, “I don't understand you, Sir ;” upon which Johnson obseryed, “Sir, I have found you an argument ; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."