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On the 22d of February I had written to him again, complaining of his silence, as I had heard he was ill, and had written to Mr. Thrale for information concerning him; and I announced my intention of soon being again in London.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"March 18, 1779. "DEAR SIR,-Why should you take such delight to make a bustle, to write to Mr. Thrale that I am negligent, and to Francis to do what is so very unnecessary? Thrale, you may be sure, cared not about it; and I shall spare Francis the trouble, by ordering a set both of the Lives and Poets to dear Mrs. Boswell, in acknowledgment of her marmalade. Persuade her to accept them, and accept them kindly. If I thought she would receive them scornfully, I would send them to Miss Boswell, who, I hope, has yet none of her mamma's ill-will to me.
"I would send sets of Lives, four volumes, to some other friends, to Lord Hailes first. His second volume lies by my bed-side; a book surely of great labour, and to every just thinker of great delight. Write me word to whom I shall send besides. Would it please Lord Auchinleck? Mrs. Thrale waits in the coach. I am, dear Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
This letter crossed me on the road to London, where I arrived on Monday, March 15, and next morning, at a late hour, found Dr. Johnson sitting over his tea, attended by Mrs. Desmoulins, Mr. Lev
He sent a set elegantly bound and gilt, which was received as very handsowe present,
ett, and a clergyman, who had come to submit some poetical pieces to his revision. It is wonderful what a number and variety of writers, some of them even unknown to him, prevailed on his good nature to look over their works, and suggest corrections and improvements. My arrival interrupted, for a little while, the important business of this true representative of Bayes; upon this being resumed, I found that the subject under immediate consideration was a translation, yet in manuscript, of the "Carmen Seculare" of Horace, which had this year been set to music, and performed as a public entertainment in London, for the joint benefit of Monsieur Philidor and Signor Baretti. When Johnson had done reading, the author asked him bluntly, "If upon the whole it was a good translation?" Johnson, whose regard for truth was uncommonly strict, seemed to be puzzled for a moment what answer to make, as he certainly could not honestly commend the performance with exquisite address he evaded the question thus, "Sir, I do not say that it may not be made a very good translation." Here nothing whatever in favour of the performance was affirmed, and yet the writer was not shocked. A printed "Ode to the Warlike Genius of Britain" came next in review. The bard was a lank bony figure, with short black hair; he was writhing himself in agitation, while Johnson read, and, showing his teeth in a grin of earnestness, exclaimed in broken sentences, and in a keen sharp tone, "Is that poetry, Sir? Is it Pindar?" JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, there is here a great deal of what is called poetry." Then, turning to me, the poet cried, "My muse has not been long upon the town, and (pointing to the Ode) it trembles under the hand of the great critic." Johnson, in a tone of displeasure, asked him, "Why do you praise Anson ?" I did not trouble him by asking his reason for this question. He proceeded :-"Here is an error, Sir; you have made
- Andrew Philidor, a musician and chess-player of eminence. In 1777, he published ` "Analyse du Jeu des Echecs."
2 This was a Mr. Tasker. Mr. D'Israeli informs me that this portrait is so accurately drawn, that being, some years after the publication of this work, at a watering-place on the coast of Devon, he was visited by Mr. Tasker, whose name, however, he did not then know, but was so struck with his resemblance to Boswell's picture, that he asked him whether he had not bad an interview with Dr. Johnson, and it appeared that he was indeed the author of "The Warlike Genius of Britain."-C
* He disliked Lord Anson probably from local politics. On one occasion he visited Lord
Genius feminine." "Palpable, Sir (cried the enthusiast); I know it. But (in a lower tone) it was to pay a compliment to the Duchess of Devonshire, with which her grace was pleased. She is walking across Coxheath in the military uniform, and I suppose h to be the genius of Britain." JOHNSON. "Sir, you are giving a rea son for it; but that will not make it right. You may have a rea son why two and two should make five; but they will still make but four."
Although I was several times with him in the course of the fol lowing days, such it seems were my occupations, or such my negligence, that I have preserved no memorial of his conversation till Friday, March 26, when I visited him. He said he expected to be attacked on account of his "Lives of the Poets." However," aid he, "I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works. An assault upon a town is a bad thing; but starving it is still worse; an assault may be unsuccessful, you may have more men killed than you kill; but if you starve the town, you are sure of victory."
Talking of a friend of ours associating with persons of very discordant principles and characters; I said he was a very universal man, quite a man of the world. JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; but one may be so much a man of the world, as to be nothing in the world. I remember a passage in Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield,' which he was afterwards fool enough to expunge. 'I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing."" BOSWELL. "That was a fine passage." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir: there was another fine passage too, which he struck out: When I was a young man, being anxious to distinguish myself, I was perpetually starting new propositions. But I soon gave this over; for I found that generally what was new was false." I said I did not like to sit with people of whom I had
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Anson's seat, and although, as he confessed, "well received and kindly treated, he, with the true gratitude of a wit, ridiculed the master of the house before he had left it an hour." In the grounds there is a Temple of the Winds, on which he made the following epigram:
Gratum animum laudo ; Qui debuit omnia ventis,
Quam bene ventorum surgere templa jubet 1-Piozzi's Anecdotes.-C.
Dr. Burney, in a note introduced in a former page, has mentioned this circumstance conee-ning Goldsmith, as communicated to him by Dr. Johnson, not recollecting that it occurred
not a good opinion. JOHNSON. "But you must not indulge your delicacy too much, or you will be a tête-à-tête man all your life.
"March 18, 1779.
"On Monday I came late to Mrs. Vesey. Mrs. Montagu was there; I called for the print,' and got good words. The evening was not brilliant, but I had thanks for my company. The night was troublesome. On Tuesday I fasted, and went to the doctor: he ordered bleeding. On Wednesday I had the teapot, fasted, and was blooded. Wednesday night was better. To-day I have dined at Mr. Strahan's, at Islington,' with his new wife. To-night there will he opium; to-morrow the tea-pot; then heigh for Saturday. I wish the doctor would bleed me again. Yet everybody that I meet says that I look better than when I was last met."
During my stay in London this spring, I find I was unaccounta bly negligent in preserving Johnson's sayings, more so than at any time when I was happy enough to have an opportunity of hearing his wisdom and wit. There is no help for it now. I must content myself with presenting such scraps as I have. But I am nevertheless ashamed and vexed to think, how much has been lost. It is not that there was a bad crop this year, but that I was not sufficiently careful in gathering it in. I therefore, in some instances, can only exhibit a few detached fragments.
Talking of the wonderful concealment of the author of the cele brated letters signed Junius, he said, “I should have believed Burke to be Junius, because I know no man but Burke who is capable of writing these letters; but Burke spontaneously denied it to me. The case would have been different, had I asked him if he was the author ; a man so questioned, as to an anonymous publication, may think he has a right to deny it."
He observed that his old friend, Mr. Sheridan, had been honoured with extraordinary attention in his own country, by having had an
here. His remark, however, is not wholly superfluous, as it ascertains that the words which Goldsmith had put into the mouth of a fictitious character in the "Vicar of Wakefield," and which as we learn from Dr. Johnson, he afterwards expunged, related, like many other pas sages in his novel, to himself.-M.
Mrs. Montagu's portrait.-C.
* In Upper Street, nearly opposite the church. The house has undergone no exterios lteration.
exception made in his favour in an Irish act of parliament concerning insolvent debtors. "Thus to be singled out," said he, “by a legislature, as an object of public consideration and kindness, is a proof of no common merit."
At Streatham, on Monday, March 29, at breakfast, he maintained that a father had no right to control the inclinations of his daughter in marriage.
On Wednesday, March 31, when I visited him, and confessed an excess of which I had very seldom been guilty-that I had spent a whole night in playing at cards, and that I could not look back on it with satisfaction-instead of a harsh animadversion, he mildly said, "Alas, Sir, on how few things can we look back with satisfaction!”
On Thursday, April 1, he commended one of the Dukes of Devonshire for "a dogged veracity." He said, too, "London is nothing to some people; but to a man whose pleasure is intellectual, London is the place. And there is no place where economy can be so well practised as in London: more can be had here for the money, even by ladies, than any where else. You cannot play tricks with your fortune in a small place; you must make an uniform appearance. Here a lady may have well-furnished apartments, and elegant dress, without any meat in her kitchen."
I was amused by considering with how much ease and coolness he could write or talk to a friend, exhorting him not to suppose that happiness was not to be found as well in other places as in London; when he himself was at all times sensible of its being, comparatively speaking, a heaven upon earth. The truth is, that by those who from sagacity, attention, and experience, have learnt the full advantage of London, its pre-eminence over every other place, not only for variety of enjoyment, but for comfort, will be felt with a philosophical exultation. The freedom from remark and petty censure, with which life may be passed there, is a circumstance which a man who knows the teasing restraint of a narrow circle must relish highly. Mr. Burke, whose orderly and amiable domestic habits might make the eye of observation less irksome to him than to most men, said once very pleasantly, in my hearing, "Though I have the honour to represent Bristol, I should not like to live there; I should