[blocks in formation]

At General Paoli's were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Marchese Gherardi of Lombardy, and Mr. John Spottiswoode the younger, of Spottiswoode,' the solicitor. At this time fears of an invasion were circulated; to obviate which Mr. Spottiswoode observed, that Mr. Fraser, the engineer, who had lately come from Dunkirk, said, that the French had the same fears of us. JOHNSON. "It is thus that mutual cowardice keeps us in peace. Were one half of mankind brave, and one half cowards, the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all brave, they would lead a very uneasy life; all would be continually fighting: but being all cowards, we go on very well."

We talked of drinking wine. JOHNSON. "I require wine, only when I am alone. I have then often wished for it, and often taken it." SPOTTISWOODE. "What, by way of a companion, Sir?" JOHNSON. "To get rid of myself, to send myself away. Wine gives great pleasure; and every pleasure is of itself a good. It is a good, unless counterbalanced by evil. A man may have a strong reason not to drink wine; and that may be greater than the pleasure. Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. Sometimes it does. But the danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with himself, he may be growing less pleasing to others. Wine gives a man nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit; it only animates a man, and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed. It only puts in motion what has been locked up in frost. But this may be good, or it may be bad." SPOTTISWOODE. "So, Sir, wine is a key which opens a box; but this box may be either full or empty?" JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, conversation is the key wine is a picklock, which forces open the box, and injures it. A man should cultivate his mind so as to have that confidence and

In the phraseology of Scotland, I should have said, “Mr. John Spottiswoode, the younger, of that ilk." Johnson knew that sense of the word very well, and has thus explained It in his "Dictionary-voce, Ilk. "It also signifies the same; as, Mackintosh of that ilk, denotes a gentleman whose surname and the title of his estate are the same."

2 It is observed in "Waller's Life," in the "Biographia Britannica," that he drank only water; and that while he sat in a company who were drinking wine, "he had the dexterity to accommodate his discourse to the pitch of theirs as it sunk." If excess in drinking be meant, the remark is acutely just. But surely a moderate use of wine gives a gaiety of spirits which water-drinkers know not.

readiness without wine, which wine gives." BoSWELL. "The great difficulty of resisting wine is from benevolence. For instance, a good worthy man asks you to taste his wine, which he has had twenty years in his cellar." JOHNSON. " Sir, all this notion about benevolence arises from a man's imagining himself to be of more importance to others than he really is. They don't care a farthing whether he drinks wine or not." SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. "Yes, they do for the time." JOHNSON. "For the time! If they care this minute, they forget it the next. And as for the good worthy man, how do you know he is good and worthy? No good and worthy man will insist upon a another man's drinking wine. As to the wine twenty years in the cellar,-of ten men, three say this, merely because they must say something; three are telling a lie, when they say they have had the wine twenty years; three would rather save the wine; one, perhaps, cares. allow it is something to please one's company; and people are always pleased with those who partake pleasure with them. But after a man has brought himself to relinquish the great personal pleasure which arises from drinking wine,' any other consideration is a trifle. To please others by drinking wine, is something only, if there be nothing against it. I should, however, be sorry to offend worthy men :

"Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,

That tends to make one worthy man my foe.""

BOSWELL. "Curst be the spring, the water." JOHNSON. "But let us consider what a sad thing it would be, if we were obliged to drink or do anything else that may happen to be agreeable to the company where we are." LANGTON. "By the same rule, you must join with a gang of cut-purses." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; but yet we must do justice to wine; we must allow it the power it possesses. To make a man pleased with himself, let me tell you, is doing a very great thing ;

'Si patriæ volumus, si nobis vivere cari.'"

I was at this time myself a water-drinker, upon trial, by Johnson's recommendation. JOHNSON. "Boswell is a bolder combatant

1 See antè, Vol. I. p. 91, and Vol. III. p. 249.-O.




than Sir Joshua; he argues for wine without the help of wine; but Sir Joshua with it." SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. "But to please one's company is a strong motive." JOHNSON (who, from drinking only water, supposed everybody who drank wine to be elevated). "I won't argue any more with you, Sir. You are too far gone." SIR JOSHUA. "I should have thought so indeed, Sir, had I made such a speech as you have now done." JOHNSON (drawing himself in, and, I really thought, blushing). "Nay, don't be angry. I did not mean to offend you." SIR JOSHUA. "At first the taste of wine was disagreeable to me; but I brought myself to drink it, that I might be like other people. The pleasure of drinking wine is so connected with pleasing your company, that altogether there is something of social goodness in it." JOHNSON. "Sir, this is only saying the same thing over again." SIR JOSHUA. "No, this is new." JOHNSON. "You put it in new words, but it is an old thought. This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts." BoSWELL. "I think it is a new thought; at least, it is in a new attitude." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, it is only in a new coat; or an old coat with a new facing." Then laughing heartily: "It is the old dog in the new doublet. An extraordinary instance, however, may occur where a man's patron will do nothing for him, unless he will drink there may be a good reason for drinking."

I mentioned a nobleman, who I believed was really uneasy if his company would not drink hard. JOHNSON. "That is from having had people about him whom he has been accustomed to command." BOSWELL. "Supposing I should be tête-à-tête with him at table ?” JOHNSON. "Sir, there is no more reason for your drinking with him, than his being sober with you." BOSWELL. "Why, that is true; for it would do him less hurt to be sober, than it would do me to get drunk." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; and from what I have heard of him, one would not wish to sacrifice himself to such a man. If he must him, he should buy a slave,

always have somebody to drink with and then he would be sure to have it. They who submit to drink as another pleases, make themselves his slaves." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, you will surely make allowance for the duty of hospitality. A gentleman who loves drinking, comes to visit me." JOHNSON. " Šir, a man knows whom he visits; he comes to the table of a sober

man." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, you and I should not have been so well received in the Highlands and Hebrides, if I had not drunk with our worthy friends. Had I drunk water only as you did, they would not have been so cordial." JOHNSON. "Sir William Temple mentions, that in his travels through the Netherlands he had two or three gentlemen with him; and when a bumper was necessary, he put it on them. Were I to travel again through the islands, I would have Sir Joshua with me to take the bumpers." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, let me put a case. Suppose Sir Joshua should take a jaunt into Scotland; he does me the honour to pay me a visit at my house in the country; I am overjoyed at seeing him; we are quite by ourselves: shall I unsociably and churlishly let him sit drinking by himself? No, no, my dear Sir Joshua, you shall not be treated so; I will take a bottle with you."

The celebrated Mrs. Rudd' being mentioned: JOHNSON. "Fifteen years ago, I should have gone to see her." SPOTTISWOODE. "Because she was fifteen years younger?" JOHNSON. "No, Sir; but now they have a trick of putting everything into the newspapers."

He begged of General Paoli to repeat one of the introductory stanzas of the first book of Tasso's "Jerusalem," which he did; and then Johnson found fault with the simile of sweetening the edges of a cup for a child, being transferred from Lucretius into an epic poem. The general said he did not imagine Homer's poetry was so ancient as is supposed, because he ascribes to a Greek colony circumstances of refinement not found in Greece itself at a later period, when Thucydides wrote. JOHNSON. "I recollect but one passage quoted by Thucydides from Homer, which is not to be found in our copies of Homer's works; I am for the antiquity of Homer, and think that a Grecian colony, by being nearer Persia, might be more refined than the mother country."

On Wednesday, April 29, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, where were Lord Binning, Dr. Robertson, the historian, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the Honourable Mrs. Boscawen,' widow

1 See antè, Vol. III. p. 197.

The son of the poet. See antè, Vol. II. 180.

• Frances, daughter of William Evelyn Glanville, Esq., married, in 1742, to Admiral Boosawen. She died in 1805.-C. See many interesting passages in the Memoirs of Hannab More.


of the Admiral, and mother of the present Viscount Falmouth; of whom, if it be not presumptuous in me to praise her, I would say, that her manners are the most agreeable, and her conversation the best, of any lady with whom I ever had the happiness to be acquainted. Before Johnson came, we talked a good deal of him. Ramsay said, he had always found him a very polite man, and that he treated him with great respect, which he did very sincerely. I said, I worshipped him. ROBERTSON. "But some of you spoil him, you should not worship him; you should worship no man." BosWELL. "I cannot help worshipping him, he is so much superior to other men." ROBERTSON. "In criticism, and in wit and conversation, he is, no doubt, very excellent; but in other respects he is not above other men: he will believe anything, and will strenuously defend the most minute circumstance connected with the church of England." BosSWELL. "Believe me, Doctor, you are much mistaken as to this; for when you talk with him calmly in private, he is very liberal in his way of thinking." ROBERTSON. "He and I have been always very gracious: the first time I met him was one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky altercation with Adam Smith,' to whom he had been so rough, that Strahan, after Smith was gone, had remonstrated with him, and told him that I was coming soon, and that he was uneasy to think that he might behave in the same manner to me. 'No, no, Sir (said Johnson), I warrant you Robertson and I shall do very well.' Accordingly he was gentle and good-humored and courteous with me, the whole evening; and he has been so upon every occasion that we have met since. I have often said (laughing), that I have been in a great measure indebted to Smith for my good reception." BoswWELL. "His power of reasoning is very strong, and he has a peculiar art of drawing characters, which is as rare as good portrait painting." SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. "He is undoubtedly admirable in this; but, in order to mark the characters which he draws, he overcharges them, and gives people more than they really have, whether of good or bad."

No sooner did he, of whom we had been thus talking so easily, arrive, than we were all as quiet as a school upon the entrance of

ATAT. 69.


This, probably, was the scene, the exaggeration or misrepresentation of which may have aven rise to Professor Miller's scandalous anecdote. See antè, Vol. II. p. 452.-C.

« VorigeDoorgaan »