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my interview with Dr. Johnson this evening, I was quite easy, quite as his companion; upon which I find in my journal the following reflection : "So ready is my mind to suggest matter for dissatisfaction, that I felt a sort of regret that I was so easy. I missed that awful reverence with which I used to contemplate MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, in the complex magnitude of his literary, moral, and religious character. I have a wonderful superstitious love of mystery; when, perhaps, the truth is, that it is owing to the cloudy darkness of my own mind. I should be glad that I am more advanced in my progress of being, so that I can view Dr. Johnson with a steadier and clearer eye. My dissatisfaction to-night was foolish. Would it not be foolish to regret that we shall have less mystery in a future state? That we now see in a glass darkly,' but shall then see face to face?"" This reflection, which I thus freely communicate, will be valued by the thinking part of my readers, who may have themselves experienced a similar state of mind.
He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's; where, as Mr. Strahan once complained to me," he was in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old friends." I was kept in London by business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that "a separation from him for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a year, when we were at four hundred miles distance." I went to Streatham on Monday, March 30. Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale made a very characteristical remark: "I do not know for certain what will
please Dr. Johnson: but I know for certain that it will displease him to praise any thing, even what he likes extravagantly."
At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on account of luxury, increase of London, scarcity of provisions, and other such topics. "Houses," said he, "will be built till rents fall; and corn is more plentiful now than ever it was." I had before dinner repeated a ridiculous story told me by an old man, who had been a passenger with me in the stage-coach to-day. Mrs. Thrale, having taken occasion to allude to it in talking to me, called it, "The story told you by the old woman." "Now, Madam," said I, "give me leave to catch you in the fact it was not an old woman, but an old man, whom I mentioned as having told me this." I presumed to take an opportunity, in the presence of Johnson, of showing this lively lady how ready she was, unintentionally, to deviate from exact authenticity of narration.
Thomas à Kempis (he observed) must be a good book, as the world has opened its arms to receive it. It is said to have been printed, in one language or other, as many times as there have been months since it first came out. (1) I always was struck with this sentence in it: "Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. (2)
(1) The first edition was in 1492. Between that period and 1792, according to this account, there were 3,600 editions. this is very improbable.-M.
(2) The original passage is: "Si non potes te talem facere,
SIR ROBERT SIBBALD.
He said, “ I was angry with Hurd about Cowley for having published a selection of his works : but, upon better consideration, I think there is no impropriety in a man's publishing as much as he chooses of any author, if he does not put the rest out of the way. A man, for instance, may print the Odes of Horace alone." He seemed to be in a more indulgent humour than when this subject was discussed between him and Mr. Murphy. (1)
When we were at tea and coffee, there came in Lord Trimlestown, in whose family was an ancient Irish peerage, but it suffered by taking the generous side in the troubles of the last century. (2) He was a man of pleasing conversation, and was accompanied by a young gentleman, his son.
I mentioned that I had in my possession the Life of Sir Robert Sibbald, the celebrated Scottish antiquary, and founder of the royal college of physicians at Edinburgh, in the original manuscript in his own handwriting; and that it was, I believed, the most natural and candid account of himself that ever was given by any man. As an instance, he tells that the Duke of Perth, then chancellor of Scotland, pressed him very much to come over to the Roman Catholic faith: that he resisted all his
qualem vis, quomodo poteris alium ad tuum habere beneplacitum ?” De Imit. Christ. lib. i. c. xvi. – J. BosWELL, Jun.
(1) See antè, Vol. VI. p. 148.-C.
(2) Since this was written, the attainder has been reversed; and Nicholas Barnewall is now a peer of Ireland with this title. The person mentioned in the text had studied physic, and prescribed gratis to the poor. Hence arose the subsequent conversation. — M.
grace's arguments for a considerable time, till one day he felt himself, as it were, instantaneously convinced, and with tears in his eyes ran into the duke's arms, and embraced the ancient religion; that he continued very steady in it for some time, and accompanied his grace to London one winter, and lived in his household; that there he found the rigid fasting prescribed by the church very severe upon him; that this disposed him to re-consider the controversy; and having then seen that he was in the wrong, he returned to Protestantism. I talked of some time or other publishing this curious life. IRS. THRALE. "I think you had as well let alone tnat publication. To discover such weakness exposes a man when he is gone." JOHNSON. "Nay, it is an honest picture of human nature. How often are the primary motives of our greatest actions as small as Sibbald's for his re-conversion!" MRS. THRAle. "But may they not as well be forgotten?" JOHNSON. "No, Madam; a man loves to review his own mind. That is the use of a diary or journal." LORD TRIMlestown. "True, Sir. As the ladies love to see themselves in a glass, so a man likes to see himself in his journal." BOSWELL. "A very pretty allusion." JOHNSON. "Yes, indeed." BOSWELL. "And as a lady adjusts her dress before a mirror, a man adjusts his character by looking at his journal." I next year found the very same thought in Atterbury's "Funeral Sermon on Lady Cutts;" where, having mentioned her Diary, he says, "In this glass she every day dressed her mind." This is a proof of coincidence, and not
ATTENTION TO TRUTH.
of plagiarism ; for I had never read that sermon before.
Next morning, while we were at breakfast, Johnson gave a very earnest recommendation of what he himself practised with the utmost conscientiousness : I mean a strict attention to truth (1) even in the most minute particulars. “ Accustom your children,” said he, “ constantly to this : if a thing hap
6 pened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them: you do not know where deviation from truth will end." BOSWELL. may come to the door: and when once an account is at all varied in one circumstance, it may by degrees be varied so as to be totally different from what really happened.” Our lively hostess, whose fancy was impatient of the rein, fidgeted at this, and ventured to say, “ Nay, this is too much. If Dr. Johnson should forbid me to drink tea, I would comply, as I should feel the restraint only twice a day ; but little variations in narrative must happen a thousand times a day, if one is not perpetually watching.” Johnson. “ Well, Madam, and you ought to be perpetually watching. It is more from carelessness about truth, than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world."
In his review of Dr. Warton's “ Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope,” Johnson has given the following salutary caution upon this subject : Nothing but experience could evince the