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I could not agree with him in this criticism ; for though sir John Dalrymple's style is not regularly formed in any respect, and one cannot belp smiling sometimes at his affected grandiloquence, there is in his writing a pointed vivacity, and much of a gentlemanly spirit.
At Mr. Thrale's, in the evening, he repeated his usual paradoxical declamation against action in publick speaking Action can have no effect upon reasonable minds. It may augment noise, but it never can enforce argument. If you speak to a dog, you use action; you hold up your hand thus, because he is a brute; and in proportion as men are removed from brutes, action will have the less influence upon them.” Mrs. THRALE. “ What then, sir, becomes of Demosthenes's saying ? • Action, action, action!"" JOHNSON.“ Demosthenes, madam, spoke to an assembly of brutes; to a barbarous people.”
I thought it extraordinary that he should deny the power of rhetorical action upon human nature, when it is proved by innumerable facts in all stages of society. Reasonable beings are not solely reasonable. They have fancies which may be pleased, passions which may be roused.
Lord Chesterfield being mentioned, Johnson remarked, that almost all of that celebrated nobleman's witty sayings were puns. He, however, allowed the merit of good wit to his lordship's saying of lord Tyrawley and himself, when both very old and infirm: “Tyrawley and I have been dead these two years; but we don't choose to have it known.”
He talked with approbation of an intended edition of the Spectator, with notes; two volumes of which had been prepared by a gentleman eminent in the literary world, and the materials which he had collected for the remainder had been transferred to another hand. He observed, that all works which describe manners require notes in sixty or seventy years, or less; and told us, he had communicated all he knew that could throw light upon the Spectator. He said, “ Addison had made his sir
Andrew Freeport a true whig, arguing against giving charity to beggars, and throwing out other such ungracious sentiments; but that he had thought better, and made amends by making him found an hospital for decayed farmers.” He called for the volume of the Spectator, in which that account is contained, and read it aloud to us. He read so well, that every thing acquired additional weight and grace from his utterance.
The conversation having turned on modern imitations of ancient ballads, and some one having praised their simplicity, be treated them with that ridicule which he always displayed when that subject was mentioned.
He disapproved of introducing scripture phrases into secular discourse. This seemed to me a question of some difficulty. A scripture expression may be used, like a highly classical phrase, to produce an instantaneous strong impression ; and it may be done without being at all improper. Yet I own there is danger, that applying the language of our sacred book to ordinary subjects may tend to lessen our reverence for it. If, therefore, it be introduced at all, it should be with very great caution.
On Thursday, April 8th, I sat a good part of the evening with him, but he was very silent. He said, “ Burnet's History of his own Times, is very entertaining. The style, indeed, is mere chit-chat. I do not believe that Burnet intentionally lied; but he was so much prejudiced, that he took no pains to find out the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate his time by a certain watch ; but will not enquire whether the watch is right or not.”
Though he was not disposed to talk, he was unwilling that I should leave him ; and when I looked at my watch, and told him it was twelve o'clock, he cried, “ What's that to you and me?” and ordered Frank to tell Mrs. Williams that we were coming to drink tea with her, which we did. It was settled that we should go to church together next day.
On the 9th of April, being Good-Friday, I breakfasted with bim on tea and cross-buns ; doctor Levet, as Frank
called him, making the tea. He carried me with him to the church of St. Clement Danes, where he had his seat; and his behaviour was, as I had imaged to myself, solemnly devout. I never shall forget the tremulous earnestness with which he pronounced the aweful petition in the Litany: “ In the hour of death, and at the day of judgement, good Lord deliver us."
We went to church both in the morning and evening. In the interval between the two services we did not dine ; but he read in the Greek New Testament, and I turned over several of his books.
In archbishop Laud's Diary, I found the following passage, which I read to Dr. Johnson:
“ 1623. February 1st, Sunday. I stood by the most illustrious prince Charles', at dinner. He was then very merry, and talked occasionally of many things with his attendants. Among other things, he said, that if he were necessitated to take any particular profession of life, he could not be a lawyer, adding his reasons: 'I cannot,' saith he, defend a bad, nor yield in a good cause." JOHNSON. “ Sir, this is false reasoning; because every cause has a bad side: and a lawyer is not overcome, though the cause which he has endeavoured to support be determined against him.”
I told him that Goldsmith had said to me a few days before, “ As I take my shoes from the shoemaker, and my coat from the tailor, so I take my religion from the priest.” I regretted this loose way of talking. JOHNSON. “Sir, he knows nothing; he has made up his mind about nothing."
To my great surprise he asked me to dine with him on Easter-day. I never supposed that he had a dinner at his house ; for I had not then heard of any one of his friends having been entertained at his table. He told me, “ I have generally a meat pie on Sunday: it is baked at a publick oven, which is very properly allowed, because one man can attend it; and thus the advantage is
• Afterwards Charles the first.
obtained of not keeping servants from church to dress dinners.”
April 11th, being Easter Sunday, after baving attended divine service at St. Paul's, I repaired to Dr. Johnson's. I had gratified my curiosity much in dining with Jean Jaques Rousseau, while he lived in the wilds of Neufchatel: I had as great a curiosity to dine with Dr. Samuel Johnson, in the dusky recess of a court in Fleet-street. I
supposed we should scarcely have knives and forks, and only some strange, uncouth, ill-drest dish: but I found every thing in very good order. We had no other company but Mrs. Williams and a young woman whom I did not know. As a dinner here was considered as a singular phenomenon, and as I was frequently interrogated on the subject, my readers may perhaps be desirous to know our bill of fare. Foote, I remember, in allusion to Francis the negro, was willing to suppose that our repast was black broth. But the fact was, that we had a very good soup, a boiled leg of lamb and spinach, a veal pie, and a rice pudding
Of Dr. John Campbell, the author, he said, “ He is a very inquisitive and a very able man, and a man of good religious principles, though I am afraid he has been deficient in practice. Campbell is radically right; and we may hope, that in time there will be good practice.”
He owned that he thought Hawkesworth was one of his imitators, but he did not think Goldsmith was. Goldsmith, he said, had great merit. Boswell." But, sir, he is much indebted to you for his getting so high in the publick estimation.” Johnson. “ Why, sir, he has perhaps got sooner to it by his intimacy with me.”
Goldsmith, though his vanity often excited him to occasional competition, had a very high regard for Johnson, which he at this time expressed in the strongest manner in the dedication of his comedy, entitled, She Stoops to ConquerP.
By inscribing this slight performance to you, I do not mean so much to compliment you as myself. It may do me some honour to inform the publick,
Johnson observed, that there were very few books printed in Scotland before the union.
He had seen a complete collection of them in the possession of the hon. Archibald Campbell, a non-juring bishop9. I wish this collection had been kept entire. Many of them are in the library of the faculty of advocates at Edinburgh. I told Dr. Johnson that I had some intention to write the life of the learned and worthy Thomas Ruddiman. He said, “I should take pleasure in helping you to do honour to him. But his farewell letter to the faculty of advocates, when he resigned the office of their librarian, should have been in Latin."
I put a question to him upon a fact in common life, which he could not answer, nor have I found any one else who could: What is the reason that women servants, though obliged to be at the expense of purchasing their own clothes, have much lower wages than men servants, to whom a great proportion of that article is furnished, and when in fact our female house servants work much harder than the male"?
He told me that he had twelve or fourteen times attempted to keep a journal of his life, but never could per
He advised me to do it. “ The great thing to be recorded,” said he, " is the state of your own mind; and you should write dowu every thing that you remember, for you cannot judge at first what is good or bad ; and write immediately, while the impression is fresh, for it will not be the same a week afterwards.”
I again solicited him to communicate to me the particulars of his early life. He said, “ You shall have them all for twopence. I hope you shall know a great deal more
that I have lived many years in intimacy with you. It may serve the interests of mankind also to inform them, that the greatest wit may be found in a character, without impairing the most unaffected piety.”
9 See an account of this learned and respectable gentleman, and of his curious work on the Middle State; Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit.
r The difficulty may be solved by a reference to the doctrine of supply and demand. There is a greater variety of employment for men than women.-Ed.