had any merit. He told me, that he never read Milton through, till he was obliged to do it, in order to gather words for his Dictionary. He spoke very peevishly of the “ Masque of Comus ;” and when I urged, that there was a great deal of exquisite poetry in it, “ Yes,” said he, “ but it is like gold hid under å rock ;” to which I made no reply; for indeed I did not well understand it.

grace as he

He not

430. Johnson in 1781. Johnson




years. only has better health and a fresher complexion than ever he had before (at least since I knew him), but he has contracted a gentleness of manners which pleases every body. Some ascribe this to the good company to which he has of late been more accustomed than in the early part of his life. There may be something in this ; but I am apt to think the good health he has enjoyed for a long time is the chief cause. Mr. Thrale appointed him one of his executors, and left him two hundred pounds : every body says, he should have left him two hundred a year; which, from a fortune like his, would have been a very inconsiderable reduction.

431. Lives of the Poets. I have been reading Johnson's Prefaces to the English edition of the Poets. There are many excellent things in them, particularly in the Lives of Milton, Dryden, and Waller. He is more civil to Milton than I expected, though he hates him for his blank verse and his politics. To the forced and unnatural conceits of Cowley, I think he is too favourable ; and I heartily wish, that, instead of the poems of this poet, he had given us “ The Faerie Queen” of Spenser, which is left out very absurdly.

432. Milton. Johnson hated Milton from his heart; and he wished to be himself considered as a good Latin poet; which, however, he never was, as may be seen by his translation of Pope's “ Messiah.”

433. Bosuell's Tour." I have just gone through Boswell's book. He is very good to me, as Dr. Johnson always was ; and I am very grateful to both : but I cannot approve the plan of such a work. To publish a man's letters, or his conversation, without his consent, is not, in my opinion, quite fair ; for how many things, in the hour of relaxation, or in friendly correspondence, does a man throw out, which he would never wish to hear of again ; and what a restraint would it be on all social intercourse, if one were to suppose that every word one utters would be entered in a register! Mr. Boswell indeed says, that there are few men who need be under any apprehension of that sort. This is true ; and the argument he founds on it would be good, if he had published nothing but what Dr. Johnson and he said and did; for Johnson, it seems, knew that the publication would be made, and did not object to it: but Mr. Boswell has published the sayings and doings of other people, who never consented to any such thing ; and who little thought, when they were doing their best to entertain and amuse the two travellers, that a story would be made of it, and laid before the public. I approve of the Greek proverb, that says, “ I hate a bottle companion with a memory.” If my friend, after eating a bit of mutton with me, should go to the coffee-house, and there give an account of every thing that had passed, I believe I should not take it well.

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[To the kindness of Thomas Amyot, Esq. F.R.S., the Editor is indebted for

the following Memoranda, extracted from Mr. Windham's Diary of the Conversations he had with Dr. Johnson during his visit at Ashbourne; where he arrived on the 30th of August, 1784, “ leaving it,” as he states, “ with regret, at half-past one on the 1st of September."]

434. Homer. “The source of every thing, either in or out of nature, that can serve the purpose of poetry, is to be found in Homer ; — every species of distress, every modification of heroic character, battles, storms, ghosts, incantations, &c.”

435. Odyssey. “Dr. Johnson said, he had never read through the Odyssey completely in the original.”

436. Johnson's first Declamation. “ Anecdote of his first declamation at College, that having neglected to write it till the morning of his being to repeat it, and having only one copy, he got part of it by heart, while he was walking into the Hall, and the rest he repeated as well as he could extempore.”

(1) (In a letter to Dr. Brocklesby, dated September 2., Dr. Johnson says “ Windham has been here to see me : he came, I think, forty miles out of his way, and stayed about a day and a half; perhaps I make the time shorter than it

Such conversation I shall not have again till I come back to the regions of literature; and there Windham is inter stellas Luna minores.” ]


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