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solved to kill himself. When Eustace Budgel was walking down to the Thames, determined to drown himself, he might, if he pleased, without any apprehension of danger, have turned aside, and first set fire to St. James's palace.”
On Tuesday, April 27th, Mr. Beauclerk and I called on him in the morning. As we walked up Johnson'scourt, I said, “I have a veneration for this court;" and was glad to find that Beauclerk had the same reverential enthusiasm. We found him alone. We talked of Mr. Andrew Stuart's elegant and plausible Letters to Lord Mansfield; a copy of which had been sent by the author to Dr. Johnson. JOHNSON. “They have not answered the end. They have not been talked of: I have never heard of them. This is owing to their not being sold. People seldom read a book which is given to them; and few are given. The way to spread a work is to sell it at a low price. No man will send to buy a thing that costs even sixpence, without an intention to read it.” BosWELL. “May it not be doubted, sir, whether it be proper to publish letters, arraigning the ultimate decision of an important cause by the supreme judicature of the nation?" JOHNSON. “No, sir; I do not think it was wrong to publish these letters. If they are thought to do harm, why not answer them? But they will do no harm. If Mr. Douglas be indeed the son of lady Jane, he cannot be hurt: if he be not her son, and yet has the great estate of the family of Douglas, he may well submit to have a pamphlet against him by Andrew Stuart. Sir, I think such a publication does good, as it does good to show us the possibilities of human life. And, sir, you will not say that the Douglas cause was a cause of easy decision, when it divided your court as much as it could do, to be determined at all. When your judges are seven and seven, the casting vote of the president must be given on one side or other; no matter, for my argument, on which ; one or the other must be taken ; as when I am to move, there is no matter which leg I move first. And then, sir, it was otherwise determined here. No, sir, a more dubious de. termination of any question cannot be imagined *.'
He said, “Goldsmith should not be for ever attempting to shine in conversation : he has not temper for it, he is so much mortified when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of chance ; a man may
be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his wit. Now Goldsmith's putting himself against another, is like a man laying a hundred to one, who cannot spare the bundred. It is not worth a man's while. A man should not lay a hundred to one, unless he can easily spare it, though he has a hundred chances for him : he can get but a guinea, and he may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man of his literary reputation : if he does not get the better, he is miserably vexed.”
Johnson's own superlative powers of wit set him above any risk of such uneasiness. Garrick bad remarked to me of him, a few days before, “ Rabelais and all other wits are nothing compared with him. You may be diverted by them; but Johnson gives you a forcible hug, and shakes laughter out of you, whether you will or no."
Goldsmith, however, was often very fortunate in bis witty contests, even when he entered the lists with Johnson himself. Sir Joshua Reynolds was in company with them one day, when Goldsmith said, that he thought he could write a good fable, mentioned the simplicity which that kind of composition requires, and observed, that in most fables the animals introduced seldom talk in character. “For instance," said he, “the fable of the little fishes, who saw birds fly over their heads, and envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be changed into birds. The skill," continued he, “ consists in making them talk like little fishes.” While he indulged himself in this fanciful reverie, he observed Johnson shaking his sides, and laughing. Upon which he smartly proceeded, “ Why, Dr. Johnson, this is not so easy as you seem to think ; for if you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like WHALES.”
* I regretted that Dr. Johnson never took the trouble to study a question which interested nations. He would not even read a pamphlet which I wrote upon it, entitled The Essence of the Douglas Cause ; which, I have reason to fatter myself, had considerable effect in favour of Mr. Douglas; of whose legitimate filiation I was then, and am still, firmly convinced. Let me add, that no fact can be more respectably ascertained, than by the judgement of the most august tribunal in the world; a judgement in which lord Mansfield and lord Camden united in 1769, and from which only five of a numerous body entered a protest.-BOSWELL.
Johnson, though remarkable for his great variety of composition, never exercised his talents in fable, except we allow his beautiful tale published in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies to be of that species. I have however found among his manuscript collections the following sketch of one:
“ Glow-worm lying in the garden saw a candle in a neighbouring palace,-and complained of the littleness of his own light; another observed—wait a little ;--soon dark,—have outlasted tona [many] of these glaring lights, which are only brighter as they haste to nothing."
On Thursday, April 29th, I dined with him at general Oglethorpe's, where were sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, and Mr. Thrale. I was very desirous to get Dr. Johnson absolutely fixed in his resolution to go with me to the Hebrides this year; and I told him that I had received a letter from Dr. Robertson the historian upon the subject, with which he was much pleased, and now talked in such a manner of his long intended tour, that I was satisfied he meant to fulfil bis engagement.
The custom of eating dogs at Otaheite being mentioned, Goldsmith observed, that this was also a custom in China; that a dog-butcher is as common there as any other butcher; and that when he walks abroad all the dogs fall on him. JOHNSON. “ That is not owing to his killing dogs, sir. I remember a butcher at Lichfield, whom a dog that was in the house where I lived always attacked. It is the smell of carnage which provokes this, let the animals he has killed be what they may.” GOLDSMITH. “ Yes, there is a general abhorrence in animals at the signs of massacre. If you put a tub full of blood into a stable, the horses are like to go mad.” JOHNSON. “ I doubt that.” GOLDSMITH. “ Nay, sir, it is a fact well authenticated.” THRALE. “ You had better prove it before you put it into your book on natural history. You may do it in my stable if you will." JOHNSON. Nay, sir, I would not have him prove it. If he is content to take his information from others, he may get through his book with little trouble, and without much endangering his reputation. But if he makes experiments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end to them: his erroneous assertions would then fall
y It has already been observed, that one of his first essays was a Latin poem on a glow-worm; but whether it be anywhere extant has not been ascertained. - Malone. The glow-worm is also the subject of some Latin verses by Vincent Bourne, which have been beautifully translated by Cowper.-En.
upon himself; and he might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular."
The character of Mallet having been introduced, and spoken of slightingly by Goldsmith ; JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, Mallet had talents enough to keep his literary reputation alive as long as he himself lived; and that, let me tell you, is a good deal.” GOLDSMITH. “But I cannot agree that it was so. His literary reputation was dead long before his natural death. I consider an author's literary reputation to be alive only while his name will ensure a good price for his copy from the booksellers. I will get you,” to Johnson, “ a hundred guineas for any thing whatever that you shall write, if you put your name to it.”
Dr. Goldsmith's new play, She Stoops to Conquer, being mentioned ; JOHNSON. “I know of no comedy for many years that has so much exhilarated an audience; that has answered so much the great end of comedy-making an audience merry.”
Goldsmith having said, that Garrick's compliment to the queen, which he introduced into the play of The Chances, which he had altered and revised this year, was
mean and gross flattery; Johnson. “ Why, sir, I would not write, I would not give solemnly under my hand, a character beyond what I thought really true; but a speech on the stage, let it flatter ever so extravagantly, is formular. It has always been formular to flatter kings and queens; so much so, that even in our church service we have our most religious king,' used indiscriminately, whoever is king. Nay, they even flatter themselves :—we have been graciously pleased to zrant.' No modern flattery, however, is so gross as that of the Augustan age, where the emperour was deified. Præsens divus habebitur Augustus. And as to meanness, (rising into warmth,) how is it mean in a player,-a showman,-a fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling, to flatter his queen? The attempt, indeed, was dangerous; for if it had missed, what became of Garrick, and what became of the queen ? As sir William Temple says of a great general, it is necessary not only that his designs be formed in a masterly manner, but that they should be attended with success. Sir, it is right, at a time when the royal family is not generally liked, to let it be seen that the people like at least one of them.” SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. “I do not perceive why the profession of a player should be despised; for the great and ultimate end of all the employments of mankind is to produce amusement. Garrick produces more amusement than any body.” Boswell. “You say, Dr. Johnson, that Garrick exhibits himself for a shilling. In this respect he is only on a footing with a lawyer, who exhibits himself for his fee, and even will maintain any nonsense or absurdity, if the case require it. Garrick refuses a play or a part which he does not like: a lawyer never refuses." Johnson. “ Why, sir, what does this prove? only that a lawyer is worse. Boswell is now like Jack in the Tale of a Tub, who, when he is puzzled by an argument, hangs himself. He thinks I shall cut him down, but I'll let him hang,” (laughing vociferously.) Sir JOSHUA REYNOLDS. - Mr. Boswell thinks that the profession of a lawyer being unquestionably