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"Snatches of reading,' said he, 'will not make a Bentley or a Clark::. They are, however, in a certain degree advantageous. I would put a child into a library (where no unfit books are), and let him read at his choice. A child should not be discouraged from reading anything that he takes a liking to, from a notion that it is above his reach. If that be the case, the child will soon find it out and desist; if not, he of course gains the instruction; which is so much the more likely to come, from the inclination with which he takes up the study.'
Though he used to censure carelessness with great vehemence, he owned, that he once, to avoid the trouble of locking up five guineas, hid them, he forgot where, so that he could not find them.
"A gentleman, who introduced his brother to Dr. Johnson was earnest to recommend him to the doctor's notice, which he did by saying, 'When we have sat together some time, you'll find my brother grow very entertaining. 'Sir,' said Johnson, 'I can wait.'
"When the rumor was strong that we should have a war, because the French would assist the Americans, he rebuked a friend with some asperity for sup posing it, saying, 'No, Sir, national faith is not yet sunk so low.'
"In the latter part of his life, in order to satisfy himself whether his mental faculties were impaired, he resolved that he would try to learn a new language and fixed upon the Low Dutch for that purpose, and this he continued till he had read about one half of Thomas à Kempis;' and, finding that there appeared no abatement of his power of acquisition, he then desisted, as thinking the experiment had been duly tried. Mr. Burke justly observed, that this was not the most vigorous trial, Low Dutch being a language so near to our own: had it been one of the languages entirely different, he might have been very soon satisfied.
"Mr. Langton and he having gone to see a freemason's funeral procession when they were at Rochester, and some solemn music being played on Frenchhorns, he said, 'This is the first time that I have ever been affected by musical sounds; adding, 'that the impression made upon him was of a melancholy kind.' Mr. Langton saying, that this effect was a fine one,-JOHNSON. 'Yes, if it softens the mind so as to prepare it for the reception of salutary feelings, it may be good but inasmuch as it is melancholy per se, it is bad.'1
"Goldsmith had long a visionary project, that some time or other, when his circumstances should be easier, he would go to Aleppo, in order to acquire a knowledge, as far as might be, of any arts peculiar to the East, and introduce them into Britain. When this was talked of in Dr. Johnson's company, he said,
round. I once asked him, whether he did not think Otway frequently tender; when he answered, "Sir, he is all tenderness."-BURNEY.
1 The French-horn, however, is so far from being melancholy per se, that when the strain is light, and in the field, there is nothing so cheerful! It was the funeral occa sion, and probably the solemnity of the strain, that produced the plaintive effect here med tioned.-BURNEY.
'Of all men Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon such an inquiry: for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and consequently could not know what would be accessions to our present stock of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding barrow, which you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a wonderful improvement.'
"Greek, Sir,' said he, 'is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.'1
"When Lord Charles Hay, after his return from America, was preparing his defence to be offered to the court-martial which he had demanded, having heard Mr. Langton as high in expressions of admiration of Johnson as. ho usually was, he requested that Dr. Johnson might be introduced to him; ano Mr. Langton having mentioned it to Johnson, he very kindly and readily agreed; and, being presented by Mr. Langton to his lordship, while under arrest, he saw him several times; upon one of which occasions Lord Charles read to him what he had prepared, which Johnson signified his approbation of, saying, 'It is a very good soldierly defence.' Johnson said that he had advised his lordship, that as it was in vain to contend with those who were in possession of power, if they would offer him the rank of lieutenant-general, and a government, it would be better judged to desist from urging his complaints. It is well known that his lordship died before the sentence was made known.
"Johnson one day gave high praise to Dr. Bentley's verses in Dodsley's Collection, which he recited with his usual energy. Dr. Adam Smith, who was present, observed, in his decisive professorial manner, 'Very well,-very well,' Johnson, however, added, 'Yes, they are very well, Sir; but you may observe in what manner they are well. They are the forcible verses of a man of a
1 It should be remembered, that this was said twenty-five or thirty years ago, when lace was very generally worn.-M.
2 Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, says, that these are "the only English verses whick Bentley is known to have written." I shall here insert them, and hope my readers will apply them.
Who strives to mount Parnassus' hill,
Must stoop as delving Woodward low.
"Who studies ancient laws and rites,
Tongues, arts, and arms, and history,
"Who travels in religious jars,
(Truth mix'd with error, shades with rays,)
strong mind, but not accustomed to write verse; for there is so e uncouthiness in the expression.'
'Drinking tea one day at Garrick's with Mr. Langton, he was questioned if he was not somewhat of a heretic as to Shakspeare. Said Garrick, "I doubt he is a little of an infidel.' 'Sir,' said Johnson, 'I will stand by the lines I have written on Shakspeare in my prologue at the opening of your theatre.' Mr. Langton suggested, that in the line,
'And panting Time toil'd after him in vain,'
Johnson might have had in his eye the passage in the 'Tempest,' where Prospero says of Miranda,
She will outstrip all praise,
And make it halt behind her.'
Johnson said nothing. Garrick then ventured to observe, 'I do not think
Like Whiston, wanting pyx or stars,
"But grant our hero's hope long toil
And comprehensive genius crown,
Yet what reward, or what renown?
“Envy, innate in vulgar souls,
Envy steps in and stops his rise;
His lustre, and his worth decries.
To college and old books confin'd;
Great without patron, rich without South Sea."—B.
A different, and probably a more accurate, copy of these spirited verses is to be found in "The Grove, or a Collection of Original Poems and Translations," &c. 1721. In this miscel lany the last stanza, which in Dodsley's copy is unquestionably uncouth, is thus exhibited:
"Inglorious or by wants enthrall'd,
To college and old books confined,
A pedant from his learning call'd,
Dunces advanced, he's left behind."-J. BosWELL, Jun.
1 The difference between Johnson and Smith is apparent even in this slight instance. Smith was a man of extraordinary application, and had his mind crowded with all manner of subjects; but the force, acuteness, and vivacity of Johnson were not to be found there. He hac book-making so much in his thoughts, and was so chary of what might be turned to account in that way, that he once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he made it a rule, when in company, never to talk of what he understood. Beauclerk had for a short time a pretty high opinion of Smith's conversation. Garrick, after listening to him for a while, as to one of whom his expectations had been raised, turned slily to a friend, and whispered him, "What say you to his ?-eh? Flabby, I think."
that the happiest line in the praise of Shakspeare.' Johnson exclaimed (smiling), 'Prosaical rogues! next time I write, I'll make both time and space pant.' 2
"It is well known that there was formerly a rude custom for those who were sailing upon the Thames to accost each other as they passed in the most abusive language they could invent; generally, however, with as much satirical humour as they were capable of producing. Addison gives a specimen of this ribaldry in Number 338 of the 'Spectator,' when Sir Roger de Coverly and he are going to Spring-garden.' Johnson was once eminently successful in this species of contest. A fellow having attacked him with some coarse raillery, Johnson answered him thus, 'Sir, your wife, under pretence of keeping a bawdy-house, is a receiver of stolen goods.' One evening when he and Mr. Burke and Mr. Langton were in company together, and the admirable scolding of Timon of Athens was mentioned, this instance of Johnson's was quoted, and thought to have at least equal excellence.
"As Johnson always allowed the extraordinary talents of Mr. Burke, so Mr. Burke was fully sensible of the wonderful powers of Johnson. Mr. Langton recollects having passed an evening with both of them, when Mr. Burke repeatedly entered upon topics which it was evident he would have illustrated with extensive knowledge and richness of expression; but Johnson always seized upon the conversation, in which, however, he acquitted himself in a most masterly manner. As Mr. Burke and Mr. Langton were walking home, Mr. Burke observed that Johnson had been very great that night: Mr. Lang. ton joined in this, but added, he could have wished to hear more from another person (plainly intimating that he meant Mr. Burke). 'O, no,' said Mr. Burke, 'it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him.'
"Beauclerk having observed to him of one of their friends, that he was awkward at counting money; 'Why, Sir,' said Johnson, 'I am likewise awk. ward at counting money. But then, Sir, the reason is plain; I have had very little money to count.'
"He had an abhorrence of affectation. Talking of old Mr. Langton, of
1 I am sorry to see in the "Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh," Vol. II. "An Essay on the Character of Hamlet," written, I should suppose, by a very young man, though called "Reverend," who speaks with presumptuous petulance of the first literary character of his age. Amidst a cloudy confusion of words (which hath of late too often passed in Scot land for metaphysics), he thus ventures to criticise one of the noblest lines in our language: "Dr. Johnson has remarked, that' Time toiled after him in vain.' But I should apprehend, that this is entirely to mistake the character. Time toils after every great man, as well as after Shakspeare. The workings of an ordinary mind keep pace, indeed, with time; they move no faster; they have their beginning, their middle, and their end; but superio natures can reduce these into a point. They do not, indeed, suppress them; but they sus vend, or they lock them up in the breast." The learned society, under whose sanction such gabble is ushered into the world, would do well to offer a premium to any one who will dis cover its meaning.
whom he said, 'Sir, you will seldom see such a gentleman, such are his stores of literature, such his knowledge in divinity, and such his exemplary life; he added, and Sir, he has no grimace, no gesticulation, no bursts of admiration on trivial occasions: he never embraces you with an overacted cordiality.'
"Being in company with a gentleman who thought fit to maintain Dr. Berkeley's ingenious philosophy, that nothing exists but as perceived by some mind; when the gentleman was going away, Johnson said to him, 'Pray, Sir, don't leave us; for we may perhaps forget to think of you, and then you will cease to exist.'
Goldsmith, upon being visited by Johnson one day in the Temple, said to him with a little jealousy of the appearance of his accommodation, 'I shall soon be in better chambers than these.' Johnson at the same time checked him, and paid him a handsome compliment, implying that a man of his talents should be above attention to such distinctions-Nay, Sir, never mind that: Nil te quæsiveris extra.'
"At the time when his pension was granted to him, he said, with a noble literary ambition, Had this happened twenty years ago, I should have gone to Constantinople to learn Arabick, as Pococke did.'
"As an instance of the niceness of his taste, though he praised West's translation of Pindar, he pointed out the following passages as faulty, by expressing a circumstance so minute as to detract from the general dignity which should prevail:
'Down then from thy glittering nail
"When Mr. Vesey' was proposed as a member of the Literary Club, Mr. Burke began by saying that he was a man of gentle manners. 'Sir,' said Johnson, 'you need say no more. When you have said a man of gentle manners, you have said enough.'
"The late Mr. Fitzherbert told Mr. Langton that Johnson said to him, Sir, a man has no more right to say an uncivil thing than to act one; no more right to say a rude thing to another than to knock him down.'
'My dear friend, Dr. Bathurst,' said he, with a warmth of approbation, 'declared he was glad that his father, who was a West India planter, had left his affairs in total ruin, because, having no estate, he was not under the temptation of having slaves.'
"Richardson had little conversation, except about his own works, of which Sir Joshua Reynolds said he was always willing to talk, and glad to have them introduced. Johnson, when he carried Mr. Langton to see him, professed that he could bring him out into conversation, and used the allusive expres
The Right Hon. Agmondesham. Vesey was elected a member of the Literary Club in 1778, and died August 11th, 1786.-M.