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"The mode of government by one may be ill adapted to a small society, but is best for a great nation. The characteristic of our own government at present is imbecility. The magistrates dare not call the guards for fear of being hanged. The guards will not come for fear of being given up to the blind rage of popular juries."
Of the father (1) of one of our friends he observed, "He never clarified his notions, by filtrating them through other minds. He had a canal upon his estate, where at one place the bank was too low. I dug the canal deeper," said he.
He told me that "so long ago as 1748, he had read The Grave,' a Poem (2), but did not like it much.". I differed from him; for thoug] it is not equal throughout, and is seldom elegantly correct, it abounds in solemn thought and poetical imagery beyond the common reach. The world has differed from him; for the poem has passed through many editions, and is still much read by people of a serious cast of mind.
A literary lady of large fortune was mentioned, as
(1) The elder Mr. Langton.- Hawk. Mem.
(2) I am sorry that there are no memoirs of the Rev. Robert Blair, the author of this poem. He was the representative of the ancient family of Blair of Blair, in Ayrshire; but the estate had descended to a female, and afterwards passed to the son of her husband by another marriage. He was minister of the parish of Athelstaneford, where Mr. John Home was his successor; so that it may truly be called classic ground. His son, who is of the same name, and a man eminent for talents and learning, is now, with universal approbation, solicitor-general of Scotland. B. [A life of Blair is given in the editions of the English Poets by Anderson and Chalmers. He died in 1746, in his forty-seventh year.]
one who did good to many, but by no means stealth;" and instead of "blushing to find it fame,” acted evidently from vanity. JOHNSON. "I have seen no beings who do as much good from benevolence, as she does, from whatever motive. If there are such under the earth, or in the clouds, I wish they would come up, or come down. What Soame Jenyns says upon this subject is not to be minded; he is a wit. No, Sir; to act from pure benevolence is not possible for finite beings. Human benevolence is mingled with vanity, interest, or some other motive." (1)
He would not allow me to praise a lady (2) then at Bath; observing, "She does not gain upon me, Sir; I think her empty-headed." He was, indeed, a stern critic upon characters and manners. Even Mrs. Thrale did not escape his friendly animadversion at times. When he and I were one day endeavouring to ascertain, article by article, how one of our friends (3) could possibly spend as much
(1) The pension which Mrs. Montagu had lately settled on Miss Williams (see ante, p. 29.) would naturally account for this defence of that lady's beneficence, but it seems also to have induced Johnson to speak of her intellectual powers in a strain of panegyric as excessive as his former depreciation. Miss Reynolds relates, that she had heard him speak of Mrs. Montagu in terms of high admiration. "Sir," he would say, "that lady exerts more mind in conversation than any person I ever met with: Sir, she displays such powers of ratiocination—such radiations of intellectual excellence as are amazing!"— C.
(2) This has been supposed to be Miss Hannah More; yet it seems hard to conceive in what wayward fancy he could call her 66 empty-headed.' -C.-I am glad to find, from Hannah More's Letters recently published, that my doubt was well founded. She was at this time in London, and could not have been the person meant. C. 1835.
3) Mr. Langton. — C.
money in his family as he told us he did, she interrupted us by a lively extravagant sally, on the expense of clothing his children, describing it in a ludicrous and fanciful manner. Johnson looked
a little angry, and said, "Nay, Madam, when you are declaiming, declaim; and when you are calculating, calculate." At another time, when she said, perhaps affectedly, "I don't like to fly." JOHNSON. "With your wings, Madam, you must fly: but have a care, there are clippers abroad.” (1) How very well was this said, and how fully has experience proved the truth of it! But have they not clipped rather rudely, and gone a great deal closer than was necessary? (2)
A gentleman expressed a wish to go and live three
(1) But though Dr. Johnson would, as Mrs. Piozzi has candidly confessed, treat her with occasional rudeness, he had a most sincere and tender regard for her, and no wonder; for she would, with great consideration and kindness, overlook his foibles and his asperities. One day, at her own table, he spoke so very roughly to her, that every one present was surprised that she could bear it so placidly; and on the ladies withdrawing, I expressed great astonishment that Dr. Johnson should speak so harshly to her, but to this she said no more than " dear good man!" This simple reply appeared so strong a proof of her generous and affectionate friendship, that I took the first opportunity of communicating it to Dr. Johnson, repeating her own animadversions which had produced it. He was much delighted with the information; and some time after, as he was lying back in his chair, seeming to be half asleep, but really, as it turned out, musing on this pleasing incident, he repeated, in a loud whisper," O, dear good man!" This kind of soliloquy was a common habit of his, when any thing very flattering or very extraordinary engrossed his thoughts. Miss REYNOLDS, Recol.
(2) This alludes to the many sarcastic observations published against Mrs. Piozzi, on her lamentable marriage, and particularly to Baretti's brutal strictures in the European Magazine for 1788; so brutal, that even Mr. Boswell, with all his enmity towards her, could not approve of them.-C.
years at Otaheité, or New Zealand, in order to obtain a full acquaintance with people so totally different from all that we have ever known, and be satisfied what pure nature can do for man. JOHNSON. "What could you learn, Sir? What can savages tell, but what they themselves have seen? Of the past or the invisible they can tell nothing. The inhabitants of Otaheité and New Zealand are not in a state of pure nature; for it is plain they broke off from some other people. Had they grown out of the ground, you might have judged of a state of pure nature. Fanciful people may talk of a mythology being amongst them; but it must be invention. They have once had religion, which has been gradually debased. And what account of their religion can you suppose to be learnt from savages? Only consider, Sir, our own state: our religion is in a book; we have an order of men whose duty it is to teach it; we have one day in the week set apart for it, and this is in general pretty well observed: yet ask the first ten gross men you meet, and hear what they can tell of their religion."
Excursion to Bristol.-Rowley's Poems.-Chatterton.Garrick's “ Archer.”—Brute Creation.—Chesterfield's "Letters.". "To be, or not to be."- Luxury. Oglethorpe.-Lord Elibank.—Conversation.— Egotism.- Dr. Oldfield. — Commentators on the Bible.Lord Thurlow. Sir John Pringle. · Dinner at Mr. Dilly's. John Wilkes. Foote's Mimicry.— Garrick's Wit.. Biography. Cibber's Plays. Difficile est propriè,” &c. City Poets. "Diabolus Regis."-Lord Bute.-Mrs. Knowles.- Mrs. Rudd.
ON Monday, April 29., he and I made an excursion to Bristol, where I was entertained with seeing him inquire upon the spot into the authenticity of Rowley's poetry," as I had seen him enquire upon the spot into the authenticity of "Ossian's poetry." George Catcot, the pewterer, who was as zealous for Rowley as Dr. Hugh Blair was for Ossian (I trust my reverend friend will excuse the comparison), attended us at our inn, and with a triumphant air of lively simplicity, called out, "I'll make Dr. Johnson a convert." Dr. Johnson, at his desire, read aloud some of Chatterton's fabricated verses; while Catcot stood at the back of his chair, moving himself like a pendulum, and beating time with his feet, and now and then looking into Dr. Johnson's face, wondering