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399. Christian Religion. In a conversation with the Duc de Chaulnes, the duke said to Johnson, “ that the morality of the different religions existing in the world was nearly the same.” you must acknowledge, my lord,” said the Doctor, “ that the Christian religion puts it upon its proper basis — the fear and love of God."
400. Dr. Burney. Of the musical tracts of Dr. Burney this great critic in style thought so highly, that he told a friend of his, after he had published his Scotch Tour,“ Sir, I had Burney in my eye all the while I was writing my Journal.”
401. Mrs. Montagu. — Shakspeare. — Voltaire.
Of Mrs. Montagu's elegant “ Essay upon Shakspeare, he always said, that it was ad hominem; that it was conclusive against Voltaire ; and that she had done what she intended to do."
402. Preface to Shakspeare. Johnson's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare was styled by Dr. Adam Smith, the most manly piece of criticism that was ever published in any country.
403. Infant Hercules. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his picture of the infant Hercules, painted for the Empress of Russia, in the person of Tiresias the soothsayer, gave an adumbration of Johnson's
404. Duc de Montmorenci. In a conversation with Dr. Johnson on the subject of this nobleman, he said, “ Had I been Richelieu, I could not have found in my heart to have suffered the first Christian baron to die by the hands of the executioner.”
405. Music. Dr. Johnson was observed by a musical friend of his to be extremely inattentive at a concert, whilst a celebrated solo player was running up the divisions and subdivisions of notes upon his violin. His friend, to induce him to take greater notice of what was going on, told him how extremely difficult it was. “ Difficult do you call it, Sir?” replied the Doctor : “I wish it were impossible.”
406. Voltaire. Dr. Johnson told Voltaire's antagonist Fréron, that vir erat acerrimi ingenii, ac paucarum literarum ; and Warburton says of him, that he wrote indifferently well upon every thing.”
ANECDOTES OF DR. JOHNSON,
BY OZIAS HUMPHRY, R.A. (1)
407. Johnson in 1764. The day after I wrote my last letter to you I was introduced to Mr. Johnson by a friend : we passed through three very dirty rooms to a little one that looked like an old counting-house, where this great man was sat at his breakfast. The furniture of this room was a very large deal writing-desk, an old walnut-tree table, and five ragged chairs of four different sets. I was very much struck with Mr. Johnson's appearance, and could hardly help thinking him a madman for some time, as he sat waving over his breakfast like a lunatic.
He is a very large man, and was dressed in a dirty brown coat and waistcoat, with breeches that were brown also (though they had been crimson), and an old black wig : his shirt collar and sleeves were unbuttoned ; his stockings were down about his feet, which had on them, by way of slippers, an old pair of shoes. He had not been up long when we called on him, which was near one o'clock : he seldom goes to bed till near two in the morning ; and Mr. Reynolds tells me he generally drinks tea about an hour after he has supped. We had been some time with him before he began to talk, but at length he began, and, faith, to some purpose ! every thing he says is as correct as a second edition : 't is almost impossible to argue with him, he is so sententious and so knowing.
(1) [In a letter to his brother, the Rev. William Humphry, Rector of Kem. sing and Seal, in Kent, and Vicar of Birling : from the original, in the posses. sion of Mr. Upcott, dated September 19. 1764. For Boswell's account of Mr. Humphry, see Life, vol. v. p. 165.]
408. Sir Joshua Reynolds. I asked him, if he had seen Mr. Reynolds's pictures lately. “ No, Sir.” “ He has painted many fine ones.” “ I know he has,” he said, “as I hear he has been fully employed.” I told him, I imagined Mr. Reynolds was not much pleased to be overlooked by the court, as he must be conscious of his superior merit. “ Not at all displeased,” he said; “ Mr. Reynolds has too much good sense to be affected by it: when he was younger he believed it would have been agreeable ; but now he does not want their favour. It has ever been more profitable to be popular among the people than favoured by the King : it is no reflection on Mr. Reynolds not to be employed by them ; but it will be a reflection for ever on the court not to have employed him. The King, perhaps, knows nothing but that he employs the best painter ; and as for the queen, I don't imagine she has any other idea of a picture, but that it is a thing composed of many
409. Bath. When Mr. Johnson understood that I had lived some time in Bath, he asked me many questions that led, indeed, to a general description of it. He seemed very well pleased; but remarked, that men and women bathing together, as they do at Bath, is an instance of barbarity, that he believed could not be paralleled in any part of the world. He entertained us about an hour and a half in this manner; then we took our leave. I must not omit to add, that I am informed he denies himself many conveniences, though he cannot well afford any, that he may have more in his power to give in charities.
ANECDOTES OF DR. JOHNSON,
BY SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. (')
410. Johnson's Conversation. – Sir Joshua Reynolds's
“ Discourses.” – Art of Thinking. I REMEMBER Mr. Burke, speaking of the Essays of Sir Francis Bacon, said, he thought them the best of his works. Dr. Johnson was of opinion, that “their excellence and their value consisted in being the observations of a strong mind operating upon life; and in consequence you find there what you seldom find in other books.” It is this kind of excellence which gives a value to the performances of artists also. It is the thoughts expressed in the works of Michael Angelo, Coreggio, Raffaelle, Parmegiano, and perhaps some of the old Gothic masters, and not the inventions of Pietro da Cortona, Carlo Marati, Luca Giordano, and others, that I might mention, which we seek after with avidity: from the former we learn to think originally.
May I presume to introduce myself on this occasion, and even to mention, as an instance of the truth of what I have remarked, the very Discourses which I have had the honour of delivering from this place? Whatever merit they have, must be imputed, in a great measure, to the education which I may be said to have had under Dr. Johnson. I do not mean to say, though it certainly would be to the credit of these Discourses, if I could say it with
(1) [From an unfinished Discourse, found by Mr. Malone among Sir Joshua's loose papers. See Works, vol. i. p. 9.]