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have read in them where the pages are open, and I do not suppose that what is in the pages which are closed is worse than what is in the open pages.—It would seem,” he added, “ that Addison had not acquired much Italian learning, for we do not find it introduced into his writings. The only instance that I recollect, is his quoting Stavo bene; per star meglio, sto qui a.'”
I mentioned Addison's having borrowed many of his classical remarks from Leandro Alberti. Mr. Beauclerk said, " It was alleged that he had borrowed also from another Italian author.” JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, all who go to look for what the classicks have said of Italy, must find the same passages b; and I should think it would be one of the first things the Italians would do on the revival of learning, to collect all that the Roman authors have said of their country.”
Ossian being mentioned ;-JOHNSON. “ Supposing the Irish and Erse languages to be the same, which I do not believe, yet as there is no reason to suppose that the inhabitants of the highlands and Hebrides ever wrote their native language, it is not to be credited that a long poem was preserved among them. If we had no evidence of the art of writing being practised in one of the counties of England, we should not believe that a long poem was preserved there, though in the neighbouring counties, where the same language was spoken, the inhabitants could write." BEAUCLERK.
" The ballad of Lilliburlero C was once in the mouths of all the people of this country, and is said to have had a great effect in bringing about the revolution. Yet I question whether any body can repeat it now; which shows how improbable it is that much poetry should be preserved by tradition.”
a Addison, however, does not mention where this celebrated epitaph, which has eluded a very diligent enquiry, is found.
1. “But if you find the same application in another book, then Addison's learning falls to the ground.”—Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, as above.
c The readers of the inimitable Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy will recollect, that the whistling of Lilliburlero was uncle Toby's invariable practice in every season of doubt and perplexity. This now forgotten tune had efficacy to lull his sorrows, to assuage his bodily anguish, to dissipate his fears, and to stimulate his courage.-ED.
One of the company suggested an internal objection to the antiquity of the poetry said to be Ossian's, that we do not find the wolf in it, which must have been the case had it been of that age.
The mention of the wolf had led Johnson to think of other wild beasts; and while sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Langton were carrying on a dialogue about something which engaged them earnestly, he, in the midst of it, broke out, “ Pennant tells of bears."—What he added, I have forgotten.] They went on, which he, being dull of hearing, did not perceive, or, if he did, was not willing to break off his talk; so he continued to vociferate his remarks, and bear (“ like a word in a catch," as Beauclerk said,) was repeatedly heard at intervals, which coming from him who, by those who did not know him, had been so often assimilated to that ferocious animal, while we who were sitting around could hardly stifle laughter, produced a very ludicrous effect. Silence having ensued, he proceeded: “We are told that the black bear is innocent; but I should not like to trust myself with him." Mr. Gibbon muttered, in a low tone of voice, “ I should not like to trust myself with you.” This piece of sarcastick pleasantry was a prudent resolution, if applied to a competition of abilities.
Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintained, that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged, (not by Johnson,) to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, whom we all greatly admired. JOHNSON. “Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political
conduct that he is honest. Were he to accept a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of his place in a year. This ministry is neither stable, nor grateful to their friends, as sir Robert Walpole was: so that he may think it more for his interest to take his chance of his party coming in.”
Mrs. Pritchard being mentioned, he said, “ Her playing was quite mechanical. It is wonderful how little mind she had. Sir, she had never read the tragedy of Macbeth all through. She no more thought of the play out of which her part was taken, than a shoemaker thinks of the skin out of which the piece of leather of which he is making a pair of shoes, is cut."
On Saturday, May 8th, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's, where we met the Irish Dr. Campbell. Johnson had supped the night before at Mrs. Abington's with some fashionable people whom he named; and he seemed much pleased with having made one in so elegant a circle. Nor did he omit to pique his mistress a little with jealousy of her housewifery; for he said, (with a smile,)“ Mrs. Abington's jelly, my dear lady, was better than yours.”
Mrs. Thrale, who frequently practised a coarse mode of flattery, by repeating his bon mots in his hearing, told us that he had said, a certain celebrated actor was just fit to stand at the door of an auction room with a long pole, and cry,“ Pray, gentlemen, walk in;" and that a certain author upon hearing this, had said, that another still more celebrated actor was fit for nothing better than that, and would pick your pocket after you came out. JOHNSON. “Nay, my dear lady, there is no wit in what our friend added; there is only abuse. You may as well say of any man that he will pick a pocket. Besides, the man who is stationed at the door does not pick people's pockets; that is done within by the auctioneer."
Mrs. Thrale told us that Tom Davies repeated, in a very bald manner, the story of Dr. Johnson's first repartee to me, which I have related exactly. He made me say, “ I
was born in Scotland," instead of " I come from Scotland ;" so that Johnson's saying, “That, sir, is what a great many of your countrymen cannot help,” had no point, or even meaning: and that upon this being mentioned to Mr. Fitzherbert, he observed, “ It is not every man that can carry a bon mot d.”
On Monday, April 10th, I dined with him at general Oglethorpe's, with Mr. Langton and the Irish Dr. Campbell, whom the general had obligingly given me leave to bring with me. This learned gentleman was thus gratified with a very high intellectual feast, by not only being in company with Dr. Johnson, but with general Oglethorpe, who had been so long a celebrated name both at home and abroad e.
& If it be necessary to illustrate this excellent remark by an example, we are furnished with a good one in a note to that most egotistic of all possible specimens of autobiography, the Memoirs of the Life of Gilbert Wakefield. We quote, rather than refer, because we believe the memoirs are now scarce. “A stream of dirty water runs between this college (Jesus college, Cambridge,) and St. John's; and it is said, that Herring (afterwards the archbishop) slipt down the bank, and fell fat along the mud. A wag, passing by at the time, exclaimed: “There, Herring, your are in a fine pickle now!” A Johnian, to which college the immemorial privilege of punning had been conceded in the Spectator's time, and consequently a disposition to be pleased with puns, went home, laughing all the way most immoderately at the joke. Some of his fellowcollegians enquiring the cause of such merriment, “ I never heard,” said he, “a better thing in my life. Herring of Jesus fell into a ditch in their piece, and an acquaintance said, as he lay sprawling, “ There, Herring, you are in a fine condition now !" "Well! where is the wit of that observation, pray?” “Nay; I am sure it was a good thing when I heard it.” Page 77.—En.
e Let me here be allowed to pay my tribute of most sincere gratitude to the memory of that excellent person, my intimacy with whom was the more valuable to me, because my first acquaintance with him was unexpected and unsolicited. Soon after the publication of my Account of Corsica, he did me the honour to call on me, and approaching me with a frank, courteous air, said, “My name, sir, is Oglethorpe, and I wish to be acquainted with you.” I was not a little flattered to be thus addressed by an eminent man, of whom I had read in Pope, from my early years,
Or, driven by strong benevolence of soul,
Will fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole. I was fortunate enough to be found worthy of his good opinion, insomuch that I not only was invited to make one in the many respectable companies whom he entertained at his table, but had a cover at his hospitable board every day
I must, again and again, entreat of my readers not to suppose that my imperfect record of conversation contains the whole of what was said by Johnson, or other eminent persons who lived with him. What I have preserved, however, has the value of the most perfect authenticity. He this day enlarged upon Pope's melancholy remark,
Man never is, but always to be blest. He asserted, that the present was never a happy state to any human being; but that, as every part of life, of which we are conscious, was at some point of time a period yet to come, in which felicity was expected, there was some happiness produced by hope. Being pressed upon this subject, and asked if he really was of opinion, that though, in general, happiness was very rare in human life, a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present, he answered, “Never, but when he is drunk.”
He urged general Oglethorpe to give the world his life. He said, “I know no man whose life would be more interesting. If I were furnished with materials, I should be very glad to write it f.”
Mr. Scott of Amwell's Elegies were lying in the room. Dr. Johnson observed, “ They are very well; but such as twenty people might write.” Upon this I took occasion to controvert Horace's maxim,
-mediocribus esse poetis
for here, I observed, was a very middle-rate poet, who pleased many readers, and therefore poetry of a middle
when I happened to be disengaged ; and in his society I never failed to enjoy learned and animated conversation, seasoned with genuine sentiments of virtue and religion.-BOSWELL.
f The general seemed unwilling to enter upon it at this time ; but upon a subsequent occasion he communicated to me a number of particulars, which I have committed to writing ; but I was not sufficiently diligent in obtaining more from him, not apprehending that his friends were so soon to lose him; for, notwithstanding his great age, he was very healthy and vigorous, and was at last carried off by a violent fever, which is often fatal at any period of life.BOSWELL.