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the discoveries of a great many minds, is always of more strength, than what is produced by the mere workings of any one mind, which, of itself, can do little. There is not so poor a book in the world that would not be a prodigious effort were it wrought out entirely by a single mind, without the aid of prior investigators. The French writers are superficial, because they are not scholars, and so proceed upon the mere power of their own minds; and we see how very little power they have.”
“ As to the Christian religion, Sir, besides the strong evidence which we have for it, there is a balance in its favour from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth, after a serious consideration of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the world, who certainly had no bias to the side of religion. Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer.” (1)
He this evening again recommended to me to
(1) Where, the Bishop of Ferns asks, did Johnson learn this? It is true that Dr. Horsley declined publishing some papers on religious subjects which Newton left behind him some have suspected that they were tainted with Unitarianism; others (probably from a consideration of his work on the Revelations) believed that they were in a strain of mysticism not (in the opinion of his friends) worthy of so great a genius; and the recent publication of his two letters to Locke, in a style of infantine simplicity (see Lord King's Life of Locke), gives additional colour to this latter opinion : but for Johnson's assertion that he set out an infidel, there appears no authority, and all the inferences are the other way. — C.
perambulate Spain. (1) I said it would amuse him to get a letter from me dated at Salamanca. John
“ I love the university of Salamanca ; for when the Spaniards were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the university of Salamanca gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful.” He spoke this with great emotion, and with that generous warmth which dictated the lines in his “London," against Spanish encroachment. (2)
I expressed my opinion of my friend Derrick as but a poor writer. Johnson. “ To be sure, Sir, he is : but you are to consider that his being a literary man has got for him all that he has. It has made him King of Bath. (3) Sir, he has nothing to say for himself but that he is a writer. Had he no. been a writer, he must have been sweeping the crossings in the streets, and asking halfpence from every body that passed."
In justice, however, to the memory of Mr. Derrick, who was my first tutor in the ways of London, and shewed me the town in all its variety of departments, both literary and sportive, the particulars of which Dr. Johnson advised me to put in writing, it is proper to mention what Johnson, at a subsequent
(1) I fully intended to have followed advice of such weight; but having staid much longer both in Germany and Italy than I proposed to do, and having also visited Corsica, I found that I had exceeded the time allowed me by my father, and hastened to France in my way homewards. — B. (2) ["Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
No pathless waste, or undiscover'd shore?
No peaceful desert yet unclaim'd by Spain ? (3) [See antè, Vol. I. p. 136.]
period, said of him both as a writer and an editor : “ Sir, I have often said, that if Derrick's letters had been written by one of a more established name, they would have been thought very pretty letters." And, "I sent Derrick to Dryden's relations to gather materials for his life ; and I believe he got all that I myself should have got." ()
Poor Derrick ! I remember him with kindness. Yet I cannot withhold from my readers a pleasant humorous sally which could not have hurt him had he been alive, and now is perfectly harmless. In his collection of poems, there is one upon entering the harbour of Dublin, his native city, after a long absence. It begins thus :
“ Eblana! much loved city, hail!
Where first I saw the light of day." And after a solemn reflection on his being bered with forgotten dead,” there is the following stanza:
“ Unless my lines protract my fame,
And those, who chance to read them, cry,
In yonder tomb his ashes lie: which was thus happily parodied by Mr. John Home, to whom we owe the beautiful and pathetic tragedy of " Douglas :"
“ Unless my deeds protract my fame
And he who passes sadly sings,
On yonder tree his carcase swings !”
(1) [See post, Aug. 27. and Sept. 22. 1773.]
author of these burlesque lines will recollect them; for they were produced extempore one evening while he and I were walking together in the diningroom at Eglingtoune Castle, in 1760, and I have never mentioned them to him since.
Johnson said once to me, “ Sir, I honour Derrick Yor his presence of mind. One night, when Floyd, (1) another poor author, was wandering about the streets in the night, he found Derrick fast asleep upon a bulk: upon being suddenly waked, Derrick started up, • My dear Floyd, I am sorry to see you in this destitute state: will you go home with me to my lodgings ?'
I again begged his advice as to my method of study at Utrecht. “Come,” said he, “let us make a day of it. Let us go down to Greenwich and dine, and talk of it there.” The fo'lowing Saturday was fixed for this excursion.
As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town accosted us, in the usual enticing manner. “ No, no, my girl,” said Johnson, “ it won't do.” He, however, did not treat her with harshness; and we talked of the wretched life of such women, and agreed, that much more misery than happiness, upon the whole, is produced by illicit commerce between the sexes.
On Saturday, July 30., Dr. Johnson and I took a sculer at the Temple-stairs, and set out for Green
(1) [Thomas Floyd published, in 1760, “ Bibliotheca Biographica ; a Synopsis of Universal Biography,” in three volumes, 8vo, and in 1760, a Translation of Du Fresnay's Chronological Tables of Universal History.]
wich. I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education. Johnson. “ Most certainly, Sir; for those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it.” “ And yet," said I, “ people go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning." JOHNSON.
Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.” He then called to the boy, “ What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts ?” “Sir,” said the boy, “I would give what I have.” Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me, “ Sir,' said
a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has, to get knowledge."
We landed at the Old Swan (1), and walked
(1) The erection of a new London Bridge may render it useful to observe that, with the ebb-tide, it was dangerous to pass through, or shoot, the arches of the old bridge: passengers, therefore, landed above the bridge, and walked to some wharf below it. — C. [“ « Shoot we the bridge!' – the vent'rous boatmen cry
• Shoot we the bridge!'--th' exulting fare reply.