« VorigeDoorgaan »
memoirs of his lordship, could tell me scarcely any thing." (')
I said, Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he had been so much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merit had raised himself from the station of a footman. Mr. Warton said, he had published a little volume under the title of "The Muse in Livery." JOHNSON. "I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should write his life; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his original low condition should be recollected. When Lord Lyttelton's 'Dialogues of the Dead' came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf (2), a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me, 'I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman.'
Biography led us to speak of Dr. John Campbell, who had written a considerable part of the "Biographia Britannica." Johnson, though he valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so
(1) It has been mentioned to me by an accurate English friend, that Dr. Johnson could never have used the phras almost nothing, as not being English; and therefore I have put another in its place. At the sam time, I am not quite convinced it is not good English. For the best writers use this phrase, "little or nothing," i. e. almost so little as to be nothing.
(2) This gentleman, whose proper name was Charles Dartiquenave (pronounced and commonly written Darteneuf), is now only recollected as a celebrated epicure; but he was a man of wit, pleasure, and political importance at the beginning of the last century— the associate of Swift, Pope, Addison, and Steele a contributor to the Tatler, and a member of the Kit-Cat Club, of which collection his portrait is one of the best. He was Paymaster of the Board of Works, and Surveyor of the royal gardens; and died in 1737. It was suspected that he was a natural son of Charles the Second, by a foreign lady; and his physiognomy seems to evidence a foreign origin. C.
much in his great work, "A Political Survey of Great Britain," as the world had been taught to expect (1); and had said to me that he believed Campbell's disappointment on account of the bad success of that work had killed him. He this evening observed of it, "That work was his death." Mr. Warton, not adverting to his meaning, answered, "I believe so, from the great attention he bestowed on it." JOHNSON. 66 Nay, Sir, he died of want of attention, if he died at all by that book."
We talked of a work much in vogue at that time, written in a very mellifluous style, but which, under pretext of another subject, contained much artful infidelity. I said it was not fair to attack us unexpectedly; he should have warned us of our danger, before we entered his garden of flowery eloquence, by advertising, "Spring-guns and men-traps set here." The author had been an Oxonian, and was remembered there for having "turned Papist." I observed, that as he had changed several times— from the church of England to the church of Rome -from the church of Rome to infidelity,—I did not despair yet of seeing him a methodist preacher.
JOHNSON (laughing). "It is said that his range
has been more extensive, and that he has once been Mahometan. However, now that he has published his infidelity, he will probably persist in it." () BOSWELL. "I am not quite sure of that, Sir."
(1) Yet surely it is a very useful work, and of wonderful research and labour for one man to have executed.
(2) As there can be no doubt that Gibbon and his History are the author and the work here alluded to, I once thought
I mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his "Christian Hero," with the avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life; yet that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable. JOHNSON." Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices."
Mr. Warton, being engaged, could not sup with us at our inn; we had therefore another evening by ourselves. I asked Johnson whether a man's being forward to make himself known to eminent people, and seeing as much of life, and getting as much information as he could in every way, was not yet lessening himself by his forwardness. JOHNSON. "No, Sir; a man always makes himself greater as he increases his knowledge."
I censured some ludicrous fantastic dialogues between two coach-horses, and other such stuff, which Baretti had lately published. He joined with me, and said, "Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy' did not last." I expressed a desire to be acquainted with a lady who had been much talked
that some sceptical expressions in the celebrated 15th and 16th chapters might have prompted this sarcasm, but I am now inclined to suspect that it may have referred to some Oxford rumours of earlier infidelity. Gibbon, in his Memoirs, confesses that the erratic course of study, which finally led to his conversion to Popery, began at Oxford by a turn towards "oriental learning and an inclination to study Arabic." "His tutor," he adds, "discouraged this childish fancy." He complains, too, of the invidious whispers which were afterwards circulated in Oxford on the subject of his apostacy; and as we may be certain that Johnson did not speak without a meaning, I now believe that some whisper of this early inclination to Arabic learning and the language of the Koran may have reached Johnson, and occasioned this sarcasm.— - C. 1835.
of, and universally celebrated for extraordinary address and insinuation. (1) JOHNSON. "Never believe extraordinary characters which you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exaggerated. You do not see one man shoot a great deal higher than another." I mentioned Mr. Burke. JOHNSON. "Yes, Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind is perpetual." It is very pleasing to me to record, that Johnson's high estimation of the talents of this gentleman was uniform from their early acquaintance. Sir Joshua Reynolds informs me, that when Mr. Burke was first elected a member of parliament, and Sir John Hawkins expressed a wonder at his attaining a seat, Johnson said, "Now we who know Mr. Burke, know that he will be one of the first men in the country." And once, when Johnson was ill, and unable to exert himself as much as usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said, "That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now it would kill ine." So much was he accustomed to consider conversation as a contest, and such was his notion of Burke as an opponent.
Next morning, Thursday, 21st March, we set out in a postchaise to pursue our ramble. It was a de
(1) Margaret Caroline Rudd, a woman who lived with one of the brothers Perreau, who were about this time executed (Jan. 17. 1776) for a forgery. Her fame "for extraordinary address and insinuation was probably very unfounded; it arose from this: she betrayed her accomplices; and they, in return, charged her with being the real author of the forgery, and alleged that they were dupes and instruments in her hands; and, to support this allegation, they and their friends, who were numerous and respectable, exaggerated, to the highest degree, Mrs. Rudd's supposed powers of address and fascination.-C.
lightful day, and we rode through Blenheim park. When I looked at the magnificent bridge built by John Duke of Marlborough, over a small rivulet, and recollected the epigram made (1) upon it —
"The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
and saw that now, by the genius of Brown, a magnificent body of water was collected, I said, "They have drowned the epigram." I observed to him, while in the midst of the noble scene around us, "You and I, Sir, have, I think, seen together the extremes of what can be seen in Britain-the wild rough island of Mull, and Blenheim park."
We dined at an excellent inn at Chapelhouse, where he expatiated on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. "There is no private house," said he, "in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that every body should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him; and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own. Whereas, at a taverns there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are