« VorigeDoorgaan »
for it may attain. In comparison of that, how little are all other things! The belief of immortality is impressed upon all men; and all men act under an impression of it, however they may talk, and though, perhaps, they may be scarcely sensible of it.” I said, it appeared to me that some people had not the least notion of immortality; and I mentioned a distinguished gentleman of our acquaint
JOHNSON. “ Sir, if it were not for the notion of immortality, he would cut a throat to fill his pockets.” When I quoted this to Beauclerk, who knew much more of the gentleman than we did, he said, in his acid manner, “He would cut a throat to fill his pockets, if it were not for fear of being hanged."
Dr. Johnson proceeded : “Sir, there is a great ery about infidelity ; but there are, in reality, very few infidels. I have heard a person, originally a quaker, but now, I am afraid, a deist, say, that he did not believe there were in all England above two hundred infidels.”
He was pleased to say, “ If you come to settle bere, we will have one day in the week on which we will meet by ourselves. That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm, quiet interchange of sentimentsi.” In his private register this evening is thus marked : “ Boswell sat with me till night; we had some serious talk k.” It also appears, from the same record, that after I left him he was occupied in religious duties, in giving Francis, his servant, some directions for preparation to communicate ; in reviewing his life, and resolving on better conduct. The humility and piety which he discovers on such occasions, is truly edifying. No saint, however, in the course of his religious warfare, was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves than Johnson. He said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject, “Sir, hell is paved with good intentions ?."
i It was only in large companies, at times when he was irritated by arrogance, and when all were treasuring up his decisions, that he talked for victory: but when his opinions were modestly asked by his friends in private, even by Boswell himself, who put questions to him which no one else had courage to do, we may be sure that he spoke the sentiments of his conviction; and on these occasions he frequently became so eloquent, copious, and accurate, that he seemed reading a well-written book. Johnson always preferred conversation to reading, though it were with the lowest mechanics; and he constantly listened to professional men with respect. His disputes were chiefly with those pretenders to knowledge and science, of which he was himself at least equally qualified to judge.” Monthly Review, vol. xx. New Series, p. 21, 22.—ED.
k Prayers and Meditations, vol. ix. p. 252.
On Sunday, April 16th, being Easter-day, after having attended the solemu service at St. Paul's, I dined with Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Williams. I maintained that Horace was wrong in placing happiness in “ Nil admirari," for that I thought admiration one of the most agreeable of all our feelings; and I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. JOHNSON. “ Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration,-judgement, to estimate things at their true value." I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgement, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne. John. SON. “ No, sir; admiration and love are like being intoxicated with champagne ; judgement and friendship like being enlivened. Waller has hit upon the same thought with you": but I don't believe you have borrowed from Waller. I wish you would enable yourself to borrow more.”
I “Hell,” says Herbert,“ is full of good meanings and wishings.” Jacula Prudentum, p. 11. edit. 1651. It was first, we believe, used as a proverb by the Portuguese.—ED.
m Amoret's as sweet and good
As the most delicious food;
He then took occasion to enlarge on the advantages of reading, and combated the idle superficial potion, that knowledge enough may be acquired in conversation. “The foundation," said he, “must be laid by reading. General principles must be had from books, which, however, must be brought to the test of real life. In conversation you never get a system. What is said upon a subject is to be gathered from a hundred people. The parts of a truth which a man gets thus, are at such a distance from each other, that he never attains to a full view."
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
“ DEAR SIR,-I have enquired more minutely about the medicine for the rheumatism, which I am sorry to hear that you still want. The receipt is this:
“ Take equal quantities of flour of sulphur, and flour of mustard seed, make them an electuary with honey or treacle; and take a bolus as big as a nutmeg several times a day, as you can bear it: drinking aster it a quarter of a pint of the infusion of the root of lovage.
“ Lovage, in Ray's Nomenclature, is levisticum : perhaps the botanists may know the Latin name.
“Of this medicine I pretend not to judge. There is all the appearance of its efficacy which a single instance can afford: the patient was very old, the pain very violent, and the relief, I think, speedy and lasting.
· My opinion of alterative medicine is not high ; but quid tentasse nocebit ?' If it does harm, or does no good, it may be omitted; but that it may do good, you have, I hope, reason to think is desired by, sir, Your most affectionate, humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.
April 17, 1775."
On Tuesday, April 18th, he and I were engaged to go with sir Joshua Reynolds to dine with Mr. Cambridge, at his beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames, near Twickenham. Dr. Johnson's tardiness was such, that sir Joshua, who had an appointment at Richmond early in the day, was obliged to go by himself on horseback, leaving his coach to Johnson and me. Johnson was in such good spirits, that every thing seemed to please him as we drove along.
Our conversation turned on a variety of subjects. He thought portrait painting an improper employment for a woman. “ Publick practice of any art,” he observed, “ and staring in men's faces, is very indelicate in a female." I happened to start a question, whether when a man knows that some of his intimate friends are invited to the house of another friend, with whom they are all equally intimate, he may join them without an invitation. JOHNSON. “ No, sir; he is not to go when he is not invited. They may be invited on purpose to abuse him.” (smiling.)
As a curious instance how little a man knows, or wishes to know, his own character in the world, or rather as a convincing proof that Johnson's roughness was only external, and did not proceed from his heart, I insert the following dialogue. JOHNSON. “ It is wonderful, sir, how rare a quality good humour is in life. We meet with very few good-humoured men.” I mentioned four of our friends, none of whom he would allow to be good-humoured. One was acid, another was muddy, and to others he had objections which have escaped me. Then, shaking his head and stretching himself at ease in the coach, and smiling with much complacency, he turned to me and said, “I look upon myself as a good-humoured fellow.” The epithet fellow, applied to the great lexicographer, the stately moralist, the masterly critick, as if he had been Sam Johnson, a mere pleasant companion, was highly diverting ; and this light notion of himself struck me with wonder. I answered, also smiling, “ No, no, sir; that will not do. You are good-natured, but not good-humoured: you are irascible. You have not patience with folly and absurdity. I believe you would pardon them, if there were time to deprecate your vengeance; but punishment follows so quick after sentence, that they cannot escape."
I had brought with me a great bundle of Scotch magazines and newspapers, in which his Journey to the Western Islands was attacked in every mode; and I read a great part of them to him, knowing they would afford him entertainment. I wish the writers of them had been present: they would have been sufficiently vexed. One ludicrous imitation of his style, by Mr. Maclaurin, now one of the Scotch judges, with the title of lord Dreghorn, was distinguished by him from the rude mass. “ This," said he, “is the best. But I could caricature my own style much better myself." He defended his remark upon the general insufficiency of education in Scotland; and confirmed to me the authenticity of his witty saying on the learning of the Scotch :-" Their learning is like bread in a besieged town: every man gets a little, but no man gets a full meal." “ There is,” said he,“ in Scotland a diffusion of learning, a certain portion of it widely and thinly spread. A merchant there has as much learning as one of their clergy.'
He talked of Isaac Walton's Lives, which was one of his most favourite books. Dr. Donne's life, he said, was the most perfect of them. He observed, that “it was wonderful that Walton, who was in a very low situation of life, should have been familiarly received by so many great men, and that at a time when the ranks of society were kept more separate than they are now.” He supposed that Walton had then given up his business as a linen-draper and sempster, and was only an author"; and added, " that he was a great penegyrist."
BOSWELL. quality will get a man more friends than a disposition to adınire the qualities of others. I do not mean flattery, but a sincere admiration," JOHNSON. " Nay, sir, flattery
11 Johnson's conjecture was erroneous. Walton did not retire from business till 1643. But in 1664, Dr. King, bishop of Chichester, in a letter prefixed to his Lives, mentions his having been familiarly acquainted with him for forty years: and in 1631, he was so intimate with Dr. Donne, that he was one of the friends who attended him on his death-bed.-J. BosweLL.