be wrong. He takes its faggot of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks, to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day, and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove."(1)

He told us of Cooke (2), who translated Hesiod, and lived twenty years on a translation of Plautus,

(1) If due attention were paid to this observation, there would ne more virtue even in politics. What Dr. Johnson justly condemned has, I am sorry to say, greatly increased in the present reign. At the distance of four years from this conversation, 21st of February, 1777, my Lord Archbishop of York, in his "Sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts," thus indignantly describes the then state of parties:-"Parties once had a principle belonging to them, absurd, perhaps, and indefensible, but still carrying a notion of duty, by which honest minds might easily be caught. But they are now combinations of individuals, who, instead of being the sons and servants of the community, make a league for advancing their private interests. It is their business to hold high the notion of political honour. I believe and trust, it is not injurious to say, that such a bond is no better than that by which the lowest and wickedest combinations are held together; and that it denotes the last stage of political depravity.

To find a thought, which just showed itself to us from the mind of Johnson, thus appearing again at such a distance of time, and without any communication between them, enlarged to full growth in the mind of Markham, is a curious object of philosophical contemplation. That two such great and luminous minds should have been so dark in one corner; that they should have held it to be "wicked rebellion" in the British subjects established in America, to resist the abject condition of holding all their property at the mercy of British subjects remaining at home, while their allegiance to our common lord the king was to be preserved inviolate, is a striking proof, to me, either that "he who sitteth in heaven" scorns the loftiness of human pride, or that the evil spirit, whose personal existence I strongly believe, and even in this age am confirmed in that belief by a Fell, nay, by a Hurd, has more power than some choose to allow.

(2) [Thomas Cooke was born in 1702, and died 1756.]

for which he was always taking subscriptions; and that he presented Foote to a club in the following singular manner: "This is the nephew of the gentleman who was lately hung in chains for murdering his brother." (1)

In the evening I introduced to Mr. Johnson (2) two good friends of mine, Mr. William Nairne, advocate, and Mr. Hamilton of Sundrum, my neighbour in the country, both of whom supped with us. I have preserved nothing of what passed, except that Dr. Johnson displayed another of his heterodox opinions a contempt of tragic acting. He said, "The action of all players in tragedy is bad. It should be a man's study to repress those signs of emotion and passion, as they are called." He was of a directly contrary opinion to that of Fielding, in his "Tom Jones;' who makes Partridge say of Garrick, "Why, I could act as well as he mysel£.

[ocr errors]

(1) Mr. Foote's mother was the sister of Sir J. Dinely Goodere, Bart., and of Captain Goodere, who commanded H. M. S. Ruby, on board which, when lying in King's Road, Bristol, in January, 1741, the latter caused his brother to be forcibly carried, and there barbarously murdered. Captain Goodere was, with two of his accomplices, executed for this offence in the April following. The circumstances of the case, and some other facts connected with this family, led to an opinion that Captain Goodere was insane; and some unhappy circumstances in Foote's life render it probable that he had not wholly escaped this hereditary irregularity of mind.-C. Foote's first publication was a pamphlet in defence of his uncle's memory. WALTER SCOTT.

(2) It may be observed, that I sometimes call my great friend Mr. Johnson, sometimes Dr. Johnson; though he had at this time a Doctor's degree from Trinity College, Dublin. The University of Oxford afterwards conferred it upon him by a diploma, in very honourable terms. It was some time before I could bring myself to call him Doctor; but, as he has been long known by that title, I shall give it to him in the rest of this Journal. B. Johnson never, it seems, called himself Doctor See antè, Vol. I. p.,289., and post, April 7. 1775.


- C.

I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did." For, when I asked him, " Would not you, Sir, start as Mr. Garrick does, if you saw a ghost?” he answered, "I hope not. If I did, I should frighten the ghost."}

NOTE-on Dr. Johnson's assertion that Mr. Burke "

a good joke.". See antè, p. 23.

never made

This was one of the points upon which Dr. Johnson was strangely heterodox. For surely Mr. Burke, with his other remarkable qualities, is also distinguished for his wit, and for wit of all kinds too; not merely that power of language which Pope chooses to denominate wit:

"True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd;

What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd;"

out surprising allusions, brilliant sallies of vivacity, and pleasant conceits. His speeches in parliament are strewed with them. Take, for instance, the variety which he has given in his wide ange, yet exact detail, when exhibiting his Reform Bill. And nis conversation abounds in wit. Let me put down a specimen. I told him I had seen, at a blue-stocking assembly, a number of ladies sitting round a worthy and tall friend of ours [Mr. Langton], listening to his literature. "Ay," said he, "like maids round a May-pole." I told him, I had found out a perfect definition of human nature, as distinguished from the animal. An ancient philosopher said, man was "a two-legged animal without feathers;" upon which his rival sage had a cock plucked bare, and set him down in the school before all the disciples, as a "philosophic man." Dr. Franklin said, man was "a toolmaking animal," which is very well; for no animal but man makes a thing, by means of which he can make another thing. But this applies to very few of the species. My definition of man is, "a cooking animal." The beasts have memory, judgment, and all the faculties and passions of our mind, in a certain degree; but no beast is a cook. The trick of the monkey using the cat's paw to roast a chestnut is only a piece of shrewd malice in that turpissima bestia, which humbles us so sadly by its similarity to us. Man alone can dress a good dish; and every man whatever is more or less a cook, in seasoning what he himself "Your definition is good," said Mr. Burke, "and I now see the full force of the common proverb, There is reason in roasting of eggs.' When Mr. Wilkes, in his days of tumultu


ous opposition, was borne upon the shoulders of the mob, Mr. Burke (as Mr. Wilkes told me himself, with classical admiration) applied to him what Horace says of Pindar,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Sir Joshua Reynolds, who agrees with me entirely as to Mr. Burke's fertility of wit, said, that this was "dignifying a pun.' He also observed, that he has often heard Burke say, in the course of an evening, ten good things, each of which would have served a noted wit (whom he named) to live upon for a twelvemonth.

I find, since the former edition, that some persons have objected to the instances which I have given of Mr. Burke's wit, as not doing justice to my very ingenious friend; the specimens produced having, it is alleged, more of conceit than real wit, and being merely sportive sallies of the moment, not justifying the encomium which they think, with me, he undoubtedly merits. I was well aware, how hazardous it was to exhibit particular instances of wit, which is of so airy and spiritual a nature as often to elude the hand that attempts to grasp it. The excellence and efficacy of a bon mot depend frequently so much on the occasion on which it is spoken, on the particular manner of the speaker, on the person to whom it is applied, the previous introduction, and a thousand minute particulars which cannot be easily enumerated, that it is always dangerous to detach a witty saying from the group to which it belongs, and to set it before the eye of the spectator, divested of those concomitant circumstances, which gave it animation, mellowness, and relief. I ventured, however, at all hazards, to put down the first instances that occurred to me, as proofs of Mr. Burke's lively and brilliant fancy; but am very sensible that his numerous friends could have suggested many of a superior quality. Indeed, the being in company with him, for a single day, is sufficient to show that what I have asserted is well founded; and it was only necessary to have appealed to all who know him intimately, for a complete refutation of the heterodox opinion entertained by Dr. Johnson on this subject. He allowed Mr. Burke, as the reader will find hereafter, to be a man of consummate and unrivalled abilities in every light except that now under consideration; and the variety of his allusions, and splendour of his imagery, have made such an impression on all the rest of the world, that superficial observers are apt to overlook his other merits, and to suppose that wit is his chief and most prominent excellence; when in fact it is only one of the many talents that he possesses, which are so various and extraordinary, that it is very difficult to ascertain precisely the rank and value of each.



Ogden on Prayer. - Lord Hailes. Parliament-House. The Advocates' Library. Writing doggedly. - The Union. Queen Mary.

[ocr errors]

St. Giles's. -The Cowgate. -The College.

rood House. Swift.



Witchcraft. Lord Mon

[ocr errors]

boddo and the Ouran-Outang. - Actors.

and Lexicography.


[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Scepticism.— Vane and Sedley. Literary Property. Boswell's Character of Himself. They leave Edinburgh.

Monday, August 16th.- DR. WILLIAM ROBERTSON came to breakfast. We talked of Ogden on Prayer. Dr. Johnson said, "The same arguments which are used against God's hearing prayer will serve against his rewarding good, and punishing evil. He has resolved, he has declared, in the former case as in the latter." He had last night looked into Lord Hailes's "Remarks on the History of Scotland." Dr. Robertson and I said, it was a pity Lord Hailes (1) did not write greater things. His lordship had not then published his "Annals of Scotland." JOHNSON. "I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were gone, I said to this lady, What

(1) [See antè, Vol. II. p. 217.]

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »