Imatges de pÓgina

record the sayings of eminent persons, a story was told, that when Pope was on a visit to Spence at Oxford, as they looked from the window they saw a gentleman commoner, who was just come in from riding, amusing himself with whipping at a post. Pope took occasion to say, 'That young gentleman seems to have little to do.' Mr. Beauclerk observed, Then, to be sure, Spence turned round and wrote that down;' and went on to say to Dr. Johnson, 'Pope, sir, would have said the same of you, if he had seen you distilling.' JOHNSON. Sir, if Pope had told me of my distilling, I would have told him of his grotto."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"He would allow no settled indulgence of idleness upon principle, and always repelled every attempt to urge excuses for it. A friend one day suggested, that it was not wholesome to study soon after dinner. JOHNSON. ‘Ah, sir, don't give way to such a fancy. At one time of my life I had taken it into my head that it was not wholesome to study between breakfast and dinner.""

"Mr. Beauclerk one day repeated to Dr. Johnson Pope's lines,

Let modest Foster, if he will, excel

Ten metropolitans in preaching well:

then asked the doctor, Why did Pope say this?' JOHNSON.Sir, he hoped it would vex somebody.""

"Dr. Goldsmith, upon occasion of Mrs. Lennox's bringing out a play, said to Dr. Johnson at the club, that a person had advised him to go and hiss it, because she had attacked Shakespeare in her book called Shakespeare Illustrated. JOHNSON. And did not you tell him that he was a rascal?' GOLDSMITH. No, sir, I did not. Perhaps he might not mean what he said.' JOHNSON. ‘Nay, sir, if he lied, it is a different thing.' Colman slily said, (but it is believed Dr. Johnson did not hear him,)

f Probably The Sisters, a comedy performed one night only, at Covent-garden, in 1769. Dr. Goldsmith wrote an excellent epilogue to it.-Mrs. Lennox, whose maiden name was Ramsay, died in London in distressed circumstances, in her eighty-fourth year, January 4, 1804.-MALONE.

Then the proper expression should have been,-Sir, if you don't lie, you're a rascal.""

[ocr errors]

"His affection for Topham Beauclerk was so great, that when Beauclerk was labouring under that severe illness which at last occasioned his death, Johnson said, (with a voice faltering with emotion,) Sir, I would walk to the extent of the diameter of the earth to save Beauclerk.'” "One night at the club he produced a translation of an epitaph which lord Elibank had written in English, for his lady, and requested of Johnson to turn it into Latin for him. Having read Domina de North et Gray,' he said to Dyer, You see, sir, what barbarisms we are compelled to make use of, when modern titles are to be specifically mentioned in Latin inscriptions.' When he had read it once aloud, and there had been a general approbation expressed by the company, he addressed himself to Mr. Dyer in particular, and said, 'Sir, I beg to have your judgement, for I know your nicety.' Dyer then very properly desired to read it over again; which having done, he pointed out an incongruity in one of the sentences. Johnson immediately assented to the observation, and said, ‘Sir, this is owing to an alteration of a part of the sentence, from the form in which I had first written it; and I believe, sir, you may have remarked, that the making a partial change, without a due regard to the general structure of the sentence, is a very frequent cause of errour in composition.""

[ocr errors]

"Johnson was well acquainted with Mr. Dossie, author of a treatise on agriculture; and said of him, Sir, of the objects which the Society of Arts have chiefly in view, the chymical effects of bodies operating upon other bodies, he knows more than almost any man.' Johnson, in order to give Mr. Dossie his vote to be a member of this society, paid up an arrear which had run on for two years. On this occasion he mentioned a circumstance as characteristick of the Scotch. One of that nation,' said he, who

8 See vol. ii. p. 13.

[ocr errors]

had been a candidate against whom I had voted, came up to me with a civil salutation. Now, sir, this is their way. An Englishman would have stomached it, and been sulky, and never have taken farther notice of you; but a Scotchman, sir, though you vote nineteen times against him, will accost you with equal complaisance after each time, and the twentieth time, sir, he will get your vote."

[ocr errors]

Talking on the subject of toleration one day when some friends were with him in his study, he made his usual remark, that the state has a right to regulate the religion of the people, who are the children of the state. A clergyman having readily acquiesced in this, Johnson, who loved discussion, observed, But, sir, you must go round to other states than our own. You do not know what a Bramin has to say for himself". In short, sir, I have got no further than this: every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test."

A man, he observed, should begin to write soon; for if he waits till his judgement is matured, his inability, through want of practice, to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at all. As a proof of the justness of this remark, we may instance what is related of the great lord Granville; that after he had written his letter giving an account of the battle of Dettingen, he said, ' Here is a letter expressed in terms not good enough for a tallowchandler to have used."

[ocr errors]

Talking of a court-martial that was sitting upon a very momentous publick occasion, he expressed much doubt of an enlightened decision; and said, that perhaps there was not a member of it who, in the whole course of his

b Here lord Macartney remarks, "A Bramin, or any cast of the Hindoos, will neither admit you to be of their religion, nor be converted to yours :—a thing which struck the Portuguese with the greatest astonishment when they first discovered the East Indies."-BoswELL.

i John, the first earl Granville, who died Jan. 2, 1763.-MALOne.

life, had ever spent an hour by himself in balancing probabilities."

"Goldsmith one day brought to the club a printed ode, which he with others had been hearing read by its author in a publick room, at the rate of five shillings each for admission. One of the company having read it aloud, Dr. Johnson said, Bolder words and more timorous meaning, I think never were brought together.""


[ocr errors]

Talking of Gray's odes, he said, 'They are forced plants, raised in a hotbed; and they are poor plants: they are but cucumbers after all.' A gentleman present, who had been running down ode-writing in general, as a bad species of poetry, unluckily said, Had they been literally cucumbers, they had been better things than odes.' - Yes, sir,' said Johnson, for a hog.""

[ocr errors]

"His distinction of the different degrees of attainment of learning was thus marked upon two occasions. Of queen Elizabeth he said, She had learning enough to have given dignity to a bishop;' and of Mr. Thomas Davies he said, Sir, Davies has learning enough to give credit to a clergyman.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"He used to quote, with great warmth, the saying of Aristotle recorded by Diogenes Laertius; that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead."

"It is very remarkable, that he retained in his memory very slight and trivial, as well as important things. As an instance of this, it seems that an inferiour domestick of the duke of Leeds had attempted to celebrate his grace's marriage in such homely rhymes as he could make; and this curious composition having been sung to Dr. Johnson, he got it by heart, and used to repeat it in a very pleasant Two of the stanzas were these:


When the duke of Leeds shall married be
To a fine young lady of high quality,
How happy will that gentlewoman be
In his grace of Leeds's good company.

She shall have all that's fine and fair,

And the best of silk and satin shall wear;
And ride in a coach to take the air,

And have a house in St. James's-square k.

To hear a man of the weight and dignity of Johnson repeating such humble attempts at poetry, had a very amusing effect. He, however, seriously observed of the last stanza repeated by him, that it nearly comprised all the advantages that wealth can give."

“An eminent foreigner, when he was shown the British museum, was very troublesome with many absurd enquiries. Now there, sir,' said he, is the difference between an Englishman and a Frenchman. A Frenchman must be always talking, whether he knows any thing of the matter or not an Englishman is content to say nothing, when he has nothing to say.""

[ocr errors]

His unjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at old Slaughter's coffee-house, when a number of them were talking aloud about little matters, he said, 'Does not this confirm old Meynell's observation-For any thing I see, foreigners are fools?" "He said, that once, when he had a violent toothach, a Frenchman accosted him thus: Ah, monsieur, vous étudiez trop."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* The correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine who subscribes himself Sciolus, furnishes the following supplement :

"A lady of my acquaintance remembers to have heard her uncle sing those homely stanzas more than forty-five years ago. He repeated the second thus; She shall breed young lords and ladies fair,

And ride abroad in a coach and three pair,
And the best, etc.

And have a house, etc.

And remembered a third, which seems to have been the introductory one, and

is believed to have been the only remaining one :

When the duke of Leeds shall have made his choice

Of a charming young lady that's beautiful and wise,

She'll be the happiest young gentlewoman under the skies,

As long as the sun and moon shall rise,

And how happy shall, etc."

It is with pleasure I add, that this stanza could never be more truly applied than at this present time [1792.]—Boswell.

« AnteriorContinua »