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We talked of antiquarian researches. JOHNSON. "All that is really known of the ancient state of Britain is contained in a few pages. We can know no more than what the old writers have told us; yet what large books have we upon it, the whole of which, excepting such parts as are taken from those old writers, is all a dream, such as Whitaker's 'Manchester.' I have heard Henry's 'History of Britain' well spoken of; I am told it is carried on in separate divisions, as the civil, the military, the religious history. I wish much to have one branch well done, and that is the history of manners, of common life." ROBERTSON. Henry should have applied his attention to that alone, which is enough for any man; and he might have found a great deal scattered in various books, had he read solely with that view. Henry erred in not selling his first volume at a moderate price to the booksellers, that they might have pushed him on till he had got reputation. I sold my 'History of Scotland' at a moderate price, as a work by which the booksellers might either gain or not; and Cadell has told me, that Miller and he have got six thousand pounds by it. I afterwards received a much higher price for my writings. An author should sell his first work for what the booksellers will give, till it shall appear whether he is an author of merit, or, which is the same thing as to purchase-money, an author who pleases the public."
Dr. Robertson expatiated on the character of a certain nobleman;' that he was one of the strongest-minded men that ever lived; that he would sit in company quite sluggish, while there was nothing to call forth his intellectual vigour; but the moment that any important subject was started, for instance, how this country is to be defended against a French invasion, he would rouse himself, and show his extraordinary talents, with the most powerful ability and animation. JOHNSON. "Yet this man cut his own throat. The true strong and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small. Now, I am told the King of Prussia will say to a servant, 'Bring me a bottle of such a wine, which came in such a year; it lies in such a corner of the cellars.'
poetical splendour; yet it is certainly the nearest portrait we have of Homer, and the mere one reads it, the better it seems.-C. 1885.
1 Lord Clive -C.
I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things." He said to me afterwards, when we were by ourselves, "Robertson was in a mighty romantic humour; he talked of one whom he did not know; but I downed him with the King of Prussia." "Yes, Sir," said I, "You threw a bottle at his head."
An ingenious gentleman was mentioned, concerning whom both Robertson and Ramsay agreed that he had a constant firmness of mind; for, after a laborious day, and amidst a multiplicity of cares, and anxieties, he would sit down with his sisters, and be quite cheerful and good-humoured. Such a disposition, it was JOHNSON. observed, was the happy gift of nature. 'I do not think so a man has from nature a certain portion of mind; the use he makes of it depends upon his own free will. That a man has always the same firmness of mind, I do not say; because every man feels his mind less firm at one time than another; '; but' I think, a man's being in a good or bad humour depends upon his will." I, however, could not help thinking that a man's humour is often uncontrollable by his will.
Johnson harangued against drinking wine. "A man," said he, may choose whether he will have abstemiousness and knowledge, or claret and ignorance." Dr. Robertson (who is very companionable) was beginning to dissent as to the proscription of claret. JOHNSON (with a placid, smile). "Nay, Sir, you shall not differ with me; as I have said that the man is most perfect who takes in the most things, I am for knowledge and claret." ROBERTSON (holding a glass of generous claret in his hand). "Sir, I can only drink your health." JOHNSON." 'Sir, I should be sorry if you should be ever in such a state as to be able to do nothing more." ROBERTSON. "Dr. Johnson, allow me to say, that in one respect I have the advantage of you; when you were in Scotland you would not come to hear any of our preachers; whereas, when I am here, I attend your public worship without scruple, and, indeed, with great satisfaction." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, that is not so extraordinary the King of Siam sent ambassadors to Louis the Fourteenth, but Louis the Fourteenth sent none to the King of Siam."
1 Mrs. Piozzi confidently mentions this as having passed in Scotland.-Anecdotes, p. 62.
Here my friend for once discovered a want of knowledge or forgetfulness; for Louis the Fourteenth did send an embassy to the King of Siam,' and the Abbé Choisi, who was employed in it, published an account of it in two volumes.
Next day, Thursday, April 30, I found him at home by himself. JOHNSON. "Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner. I love Ramsay. You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance than in Ramsay's." BOSWELL. "What I admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young." JOHNSON. "Why, yes, Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I have no more of it than at twenty-eight." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, would not you wish to know old age? He who is never an old man, does not know the whole of human life; for old age is one of the divisions of it." JOHNSON. " 'Nay, Sir, what talk is this ?" BOSWELL. "I mean, Sir, the Sphinx's description of it :-morning, noon, and night. I would know night, as well as morning and noon." JOHNSON. 'What, Sir, would you know what it is to feel the evils of old age? Would you have the gout? Would you have decrepitude?" Seeing him heated, I would not argue any farther; but I was confident that I was in the right. I would, in due time, be a Nestor, an elder of the people; and there should be some difference between the conversation of twenty-eight and sixty-eight.
1 The Abbé de Choisi was sent by Louis XIV. on an embassy to the King of Siam in 1683, with a view, it has been said, to convert the king of the country to Christianity.-M. The Chevalier de Chaumont was the ambassador: the Abbé de Choisi was, as Boswell correctly states, only "employed in it," and it was in return of this mission that the King of Siam sent his embassy to Louis.-C.
2 "April 30, 1778. Since I was fetched away from Streatham, the Journal (of engagements) stands thus: Saturday, Sir Joshua; Sunday, Mr. Hoole; Monday, Lord Lucan; Tuesday, Gen. Paoli; Wednesday, Mr. Ramsay; Thursday, Old Bailey; Friday, Club; Saturday, Sir Joshua; Sunday, Lady Lucan. Monday, pray let it be Streatham, and very early; do, now, let it be very early; for I may be carried away-just like Ganymede of Troy. Do, now, let me know whether you will send for me-early-on Monday. But take some care, or your letter will not come till Tuesday."-Letters to Mrs. Thrale. There is a dinner given at the Old Bailey to the judges, counsel, and a few guests. The venerable Mr. Chamberlain Clarke remembered to have taken Johnson to this dinner, he being then sheriff. The judges were Blackstone and Eyree. Mr. Justice Blackstone conversed with Johnson on the subject of their absent friend, Sir Robert Chambers.-C.
Johnson clearly meant (what the author has often elsewhere mentioned), that he had Bone of the listlessness of old age; that he had the same activity and energy of mind, as for
A grave picture should not be gay. There is a serene, solemn, placid old age. JOHNзON. "Mrs. Thrale's mother said of me what flattered me much. A clergyman was complaining of want of society in the country where he lived; and said 'They talk of runts,' (that is young cows.)' 'Sir (said Mrs. Salusbury), Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts;' meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation, whatever I was.” He added, "I think myself a very polite mat."
On Saturday, May 2, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where there was a very large company, and a great deal of conversation; but, owing to some circumstance which I cannot now recollect, I have no record of any part of it, except that there were several people there by no means of the Johnsonian school; so that less attention was paid to him than usual, which put him out of humour: and upon some imaginary offence from me, he attacked me with such rudeness, that I was vexed and angry, because it gave those persons an opportunity of enlarging upon his supposed ferocity, and
merly; not that a man of sixty-eight might dance in a public assembly with as much propriety as he could at twenty-eight. His conversation being the product of much various knowledge, great acuteness, and extraordinary wit, was equally well suited to every period of life; and as in his youth it probably did not exhibit any unbecoming levity, so certainly in his later years it was totally free from the garrulity and querulousness of old age.—M.
1 Such is the signification of this word in Scotland, and, it should seem, in Wales. (See Skinner in v.) But the heifers of Scotland and Wales, when brought to England, being always smaller than those of this country, the word runt has acquired a secondary sense, and generally signifies a heifer diminutive in size, small beyond the ordinary growth of that animal, and in this sense alone the word is acknowledged by Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary.-M.
2 Lord Wellesley has been so obliging as to give me the following account of the cause of this quarrel: "Boswell, one day at Sir Joshua's table, chose to pronounce a high-flown pauegyric on the wits of Queen Anne's reign, and exclaimed, 'How delightful it must have been to have lived in the society of Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Gay, and Bolingbroke! We have no such society in our days." SIR JOSHUA. 'I think, Mr. Boswell, you might be satisfied with your great friend's conversation.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, Boswell is right; every man wishes for preferment, and if Boswell had lived in those days, he would have obtained promotion.' SIR JOSHUA. How so, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he would have had a high place in the Dunciad.' This anecdote Lord Wellesley heard from Mr. Thomas Sydenham, who received it from Mr. Knight, on the authority of Sir Joshua Reynolds himself." I, however, suspect, that this is but another version of the repartee of the same kind, in reference to the Dun ciad, made in Sir Joshua's presence, though not at his house, some years before (see antè, Vol. II. p. 13. Johnson's playful retort seems so much less offensive than fifty others, that Boswell relates himself to have endured patiently, that it is improbable that he should have resented it so deeply. The anecdote, in passing through the hands of Mr. Knight and Mr. Sydenham, may have lost its true date, and acquired something beyond its true expression.-C.
ill treatment of his best friends. I was so much hurt, and had my pride so much roused, that I kept away from him for a week; and, perhaps, might have kept away much longer, nay, gone to Scotland without seeing him again, had not we fortunately met and been reconciled.. To such unhappy chances are human friendships liable.
On Friday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Langton's. I was reserved and silent, which I suppose he perceived, and might recollect the cause. After dinner, when Mr. Langton was called out of the room, and we were by ourselves, he drew his chair near to mine, and said, in a tone of conciliating courtesy, "Well, how have you done ?" BOSWELL. "Sir, you have made me very uneasy by your behaviour to me when we were last at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. You know, my dear Sir, no man has a greater respect and affection for you, or would sooner go to the end of the world to serve you. Now, to treat me so-." He insisted that I had interrupted, which I assured him was not the case; and proceeded─"But why treat me so before people who neither love you nor me?" JOHNSON. "Well, I am sorry for it. I'll make it up to you twenty different ways, as you please." BOSWELL. "I said to-day to Sir Joshua, when he observed that you tossed me somtimes, I don't care how often or how high he tosses me, when only friends are present, for then I fall upon soft ground; but I do not like falling on stones, which is the case when enemies are present. I think this is a pretty good image, Sir." JOHNSON. "Sir, it is one of the happiest I have ever heard."1
The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in a hearty laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our friends. BosWELL. "Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to laugh at a man to his face ?" JOHNSON." Why, Sir, that depends upon the man and the thing. If it is a slight man, and a slight thing, you may; for you take nothing valuable from him."
The simplicity with which Boswell repeats this flattery, without seeing that it was only a peace-offering, is very characteristic and amusing.-C.