« VorigeDoorgaan »
owing to his own honest pride—that dignity of mind which is always jealous of appearing too compliant.
On Sunday, March 31., I called on him and showed him, as a curiosity which I had discovered, his "Translation of Lobo's Account of Abyssinia," which Sir John Pringle had lent me, it being then little known as one of his works. He said, "Take no notice of it," or "Don't talk of it." He seemed to think it beneath him, though done at six-and-twenty. I said to him, "Your style, Sir, is much improved since you translated this." He answered, with a sort of triumphant smile, "Sir, I hope it is."
On Wednesday, April 3., in the morning, I found him very busy putting his books in order, and, as they were generally very old ones, clouds of dust were flying around him. He had on a pair of large gloves, such as hedgers use. His present appearance put me in mind of my uncle Dr. Boswell's description of him, "A robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries."
gave him an account of a conversation which had passed between me and Captain Cook, the day before, at dinner at Sir John Pringle's; and he was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his Voyages. I told him that while I was with the captain I catched the enthusiasm of curiosity and adventure, and felt a strong inclination to go with him on his next voyage. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, a man does feel so, till he
considers how very little he can learn from such
voyages." BOSWELL. "But one is carried away
with the general, grand, and indistinct notion of a VOYAGE ROUND the world." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; but a man is to guard himself against taking a thing in general." I said I was certain that a great part of what we are told by the travellers to the South Sea must be conjecture, because they had not enough of the language of those countries to understand so much as they have related. Objects falling under the observation of the senses might be clearly known; but every thing intellectual, every thing abstract politics, morals, and religion, must be darkly guessed. Dr. Johnson was of the same opinion. He upon another occasion, when a friend mentioned to him several extraordinary facts, as communicated to him by the circumnavigators, slily observed, "Sir, I never before knew how much I was respected by these gentlemen; they told me none of these things."
He had been in company with Omai, a native of one of the South Sea Islands, after he had been some time in this country. He was struck with the elegance of his behaviour, and accounted for it thus: "Sir, he had passed his time, while in England, only in the best company; so that all that he had acquired of our manners was genteel. As a proof of this, Sir, Lord Mulgrave and he dined one day at Streatham; they sat with their backs to the light fronting me, so that I could not see distinctly; and there was so little of the savage in Omai, that
I was afraid to speak to either, lest I should mistake one for the other." (1)
We agreed to dine to-day at the Mitre tavern, after the rising of the House of Lords, where a branch of the litigation concerning the Douglas estate, in which I was one of the counsel, was to come on. I brought with me Mr. Murray, solicitorgeneral of Scotland, now one of the judges of the court of session, with the title of Lord Henderland. I mentioned Mr. Solicitor's relation, Lord Charles Hay (2), with whom I knew Dr. Johnson had been acquainted. JOHNSON. "I wrote something for Lord Charles, and I thought he had nothing to fear from a court-martial. I suffered a great loss when he died; he was a mighty pleasing man in conversation, and a reading man. The character of a soldier is high. They who stand forth the foremost in danger, for the community, have the respect of mankind. An officer is much more respected than any other man who has little money. In a commercial country, money will always purchase respect. But you find, an officer, who has, properly
(1) This might perhaps have been more justly attributed to the defect of his sight (see antè, p. 20. n.) than to any resemblance between Omai and Lord Mulgrave. — C.
(2) Third son of the third Marquis of Tweedale. He distinguished himself at the battle of Fontenoy; where he is said to have been the officer who invited the French guards to fire. He was afterwards third in command under Lord Loudon and General Hopson, in an expedition against Canada; but expressing himself with some violence against the tardiness of his superiors, he was, on the 31st July, 1757, put under arrest and sent to England, to be tried by a court-martial, which, however, did not assemble till Feb. 1760; but Lord Charles died on the 1st of May following, before the sentence was promulgated. — C.
speaking, no money, is every where well received and treated with attention. The character of a soldier always stands him in stead." BOSWELL. "Yet, Sir, I think that common soldiers are worse thought of than other men in the same rank of life; such as labourers." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, a common soldier is usually a very gross man, and any quality which procures respect may be overwhelmed by grossness. A man of learning may be so vicious or so ridiculous that you cannot respect him. A common soldier, too, generally eats more than he can pay for. But when a common soldier is civil in his quarters, his red coat procures him a degree of respect." The peculiar respect paid to the military character in France was mentioned. BOSWELL. "I should think that where military men are so numerous, they would be less valuable as not being rare." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, wherever a particular character or profession is high in the estimation of a people, those who are of it will be valued above other men. We value an Englishman high in this country, and yet Englishmen are not rare in it."
Mr. Murray praised the ancient philosophers for the candour and good humour with which those of different sects disputed with each other. JOHNson. "Sir, they disputed with good humour, because they were not in earnest as to religion. Had the ancients been serious in their belief, we should not have had their gods exhibited in the manner we find them represented in the poets. The people would not have suffered it. They disputed with
good humour upon their fanciful theories, because they were not interested in the truth of them: when a man has nothing to lose, he may be in good humour with his opponent. Accordingly you see, in Lucian, the Epicurean, who argues only negatively, keeps his temper; the Stoic, who has something positive to preserve, grows angry. (1) Being angry with one who controverts an opinion which you value, is a necessary consequence of the uneasiness which you feel. Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy. Those only who believed in revelation have been angry at having their faith called in question; because they only had something upon which they could rest as matter of fact." MURRAY. "It seems to me that we are not angry at a man for controverting an opinion which we believe and value; we rather pity him." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, to be sure, when you wish a man to have that belief which you think is of infinite advantage, you wish well to him; but your primary consideration is your own quiet. If a madman were to come into this room with a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him
(1) This might allude to the pleadings for and against Pleasure in Lucian's Dicasteria, where the Stoic, being defeated by Epicurus in the court below, appeals to Jupiter, but there seems no loss of temper. See Lucian, ed. 1615, p. 756. Or perhaps the squabble between the disputants at the end of Jupiter the Tragic may have been meant.— C.