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to the Christian cause. Besides, I always lived on good terms with Mr. Hume, though I have frankly told him, I was not clear that it was right in me to keep company with him. "But," said I, "how much better are you than your books!" He was cheerful, obliging, and instructive; he was charitable to the poor; and many an agreeable hour have I passed with him. I have preserved some entertaining and interesting memoirs of him, particularly when he knew himself to be dying, which I may some time or other communicate to the world. I shall not, however, extol him so very highly as Dr. Adam Smith does, who says, in a letter to M Strahan the printer (not a confidential letter to his friend, but a letter which is published (1) with all formality): "Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a
(1) This letter, though shattered by the sharp shot of Dr. Horne of Oxford's wit, in the character of "One of the People called Christians," is still prefixed to Mr. Hume's excellent History of England, like a poor invalid on the piquet guard, er like a list of quack medicines sold by the same bookseller, by whom a work of whatever nature is published; for it has no connection with his History, let it have what it may with what are called his Philosophical Works. A worthy friend of mine in London was lately consulted by a lady of quality, of most distinguished merit, what was the best History of England for her son to read. My friend recommended Hume's. But, upon recollecting that its usher was a superlative panegyric on one, who endeavoured to sap the credit of our holy religion, he revoked his recommendation. I am really sorry for this ostentatious alliance; because I admire "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," and value the greatest part of "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." Why should such a writer be so forgetful of human comfort, as to give any countenance to that dreary infidelity which would "make us poor indeed!"
perfectly wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit." Let Dr. Smith consider, Was not Mr. Hume blest with good health, good spirits, good friends, a competent and increasing fortune? And had he not also a perpetual feast of fame? But, as a learned "What trials did he
friend has observed to me, undergo, to prove the perfection of his virtue? Did he ever experience any great instance of adversity?" When I read this sentence, delivered by my old professor of moral philosophy, I could not help exclaiming with the Psalmist, "Surely I have now more understanding than my teachers!"
While we were talking, there came a note to me from Dr. William Robertson.
"DEAR SIR, - I have been expecting every day to hear from you of Dr. Johnson's arrival. Pray, what do you know about his motions? I long to take him by the hand. I write this from the college, where I have only this scrap of paper. Ever yours,
It pleased me to find Dr. Robertson thus eager to meet Dr. Johnson. I was glad I could answer that he was come; and I begged Dr. Robertson might be with us as soon as he could.
Sir William Forbes, Mr. Scott, Mr. Arbuthnot, and another gentleman, dined with us. "Come, Dr. Johnson," said I, "it is commonly thought that our veal in Scotland is not good. But here is some which I believe you will like." There was no catching him. JOHNSON." Why, Sir, what is commonly thought, I should take to be true. Your veal may be good; but that will only be an
exception to the general opinion, not a proof against it."
Dr. Robertson, according to the custom of Edinburgh at that time, dined in the interval between the forenoon and afternoon service, which was then later than now; so we had not the pleasure of his company till dinner was over, when he came and drank wine with us; and then began some animated dialogue, of which here follows a pretty full note.
We talked of Mr. Burke. Dr. Johnson said, he had great variety of knowledge, store of imagery, copiousness of language. ROBERTSON. "He has wit too." JOHNSON. "No, Sir; he never succeeds there. 'Tis low; 't is conceit. I used to say, Burke never once made a good joke. (1) What I most envy Burke for is, his being constantly the same. He is never what we call humdrum; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to leave off." BOSWELL." Yet he can listen." JOHNSON. "No; I cannot say he is good at that. So desirous is he to talk, that if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end. Burke, Sir, is such a man, that if you met him for the first time in the street, where you were stopped by a drove of oxen, and you and he stepped aside to take shelter but for five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say, This is an extraordinary man. Now, you may be long enough with me, without finding any thing
(1) Mr. Boswell's long note on this dictum will be found at the end of the chapter, p. 28. post.
extraordinary." He said, he believed Burke was intended for the law; but either had not money enough to follow it, or had not diligence enough. He said, he could not understand how a man could apply to one thing, and not to another. Robertson said, one man had more judgment, another more imagination. JOHNSON. "No, Sir; it is only, one man has more mind than another. He may direct it differently; he may, by accident, see the success of one kind of study, and take a desire to excel in it. I am persuaded that had Sir Isaac 2 Newton applied to poetry, he would have made a very fine epic poem. I could as easily apply to law as to tragic poetry." (1) BOSWELL. "Yet, Sir, you did apply to tragic poetry, not to law." JOHNSON. "Because, Sir, I had not money to study law. Sir, the man who has vigour may walk to the east, just as well as to the west, if he happens to turn his head that way." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, 't is like walking up and down a hill; one mai. may naturally do the one better than the other. A hare will run up a hill best, from her fore-legs being short; a dog down." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir; that is from mechanical powers. If you make mind mechanical, you may argue in that manner. One mind is a vice, and holds fast; there's a good memory. Another is a file; and he is a disputant, a controversialist. Another is a razor; and he is sarcastical." We talked of Whitfield. He said he was at the same college with him, and knew him before he began
(1) How much a man deceives himself! Johnson, who has shown such powers in other lines of literature, failed as a tragic poet.-C.
to be better than other people (smiling); that he believed he sincerely meant well, but had a mixture of politics and ostentation: whereas Wesley thought of religion only. (1) Robertson said, Whitfield had strong natural eloquence, which, if cultivated, would have done great things. JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, I take it he was at the height of what his abilities could do, and was sensible of it. He had the ordinary advantages of education; but he chose to pursue that oratory which is for the mob." BOSWELL. "He had great effect on the passions." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, I don't think so. He could not represent a succession of pathetic images. He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer." Dr. Johnson now said, a certain eminent political friend (2) of ours was wrong in his maxim of sticking to a certain set of men on all occasions. "I can see that a man may do right to stick to a party,” said he, "that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may
(1) That cannot be said now, after the flagrant part which Mr. John Wesley took against our American brethren, when, in his own name, he threw amongst his enthusiastic flock the very individual combustibles of Dr. Johnson's " Taxation no Tyranny;" and after the intolerant spirit which he manifested against our fellow Christians of the Roman Catholic communion, for which that able champion, Father O'Leary, has given him so hearty a drubbing. But I should think myself_very_un
worthy, if I did not at the same time acknowledge Mr. John Wesley's merit, as a veteran "Soldier of Jesus Christ," who has, I do believe, turned many from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to the living God.
(2) Mr. Burke. See antè, Vol. III. d. 263.