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L I F E
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL. D.
ON Monday, April 13, I dined with Johnson at
1778. Mr. Langton's, where were Dr. Porteus, then Bishop of Chester, now of London, and Dr. Stinton. He was at Ætat. first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he said noth- 69. ing but “ Pretty baby,” to one of the children. Lang. ton said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Johnson's conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of “The Natural History of Iceland,” from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus :
“Chap. LXXII. Concerning Snakes. “ There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.”
Wornaar 23 Nov. 1993
At dinner we talked of another mode in the newspa” pers of giving modern characters in sentences from the classicks, and of the passage
“ Parcus deorum cultor, ct infrequens,
“ Cogor relictos :
1778. consultus was primarily an adjective, like amicus it came
to be used as a substantive. So we have Juris consultus, Ætat. 69. a consult in law.”
We talked of the styles of different painters, and how
facies non omnibus una,
Mr. Topham Beauclerk came in the evening, and he
2 See Vol. ii, p. 362
he speaks behind their backs against those with whom 1778. he lives on the best terms, and attacks them in the news- Ætat. papers. He certainly ought to be kicked.” Johnson. 69.
Sir, we all do this in some degree : Veniam petimus damusque vicissim.' To be sure it may be done so much, that a man may deserve to be kicked.” BEAUCLERK “He is very malignant.” Johnson. "No, Sir ; he is
“ not malignant. He is mischievous, if you will. He
. would do no man an essential injury; he may, indeed, love to make sport of people by vexing their vanity. I, however, once knew an old gentleman who was absolutely malignant. He really wished evil to others, and rejoiced at it.” Boswell. “ The gentleman, Mr. Beauclerk, against whom you are so violent, is, I know, a man of good principles.” BEAUCLERK. “ Then he does not wear them out in practice."
Dr. Johnson, who, as I have observed before, delighted in discrimination of character, and having a masterly knowledge of human nature, was willing to take men as they are, imperfect and with a mixture of good and bad qualities, I suppose thought he had said enough in defence of his friend, of whose merits, notwithstanding his exceptionable points, he had a just value ; and added no more on the subject.
On Tuesday, April 14, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, with General Paoli and Mr. Langton. General Oglethorpe declaimed against luxury. Johnson.“ Depend upon it, Sir, every state of society is as luxurious as it can be. Men always take the best they can get.” OGLETHORPE. “ But the best depends much upon ourselves; and if we can be as well satisfied with plain things, we are in the wrong to accustom our palates to what is high-seasoned and expensive. What says Addison in his . Cato,' speaking of the Numidian?
• Coarse are his meals, the fortune of the chace,
On the first friendly bank he throws him down,
1778. • A new repast, or an untasted spring, Ætat.
• Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury.' 69. Let us have that kind of luxury, Sir, if you will."
" Johnson. “But hold, Sir : to be merely satisfied, is not enough. It is in refinement and elegance that the civilized man differs from the savage. A great part of
A our industry, and all our ingenuity is exercised in procuring pleasure ; and, Sir, a hungry man has not the same pleasure in eating a plain dinner, that a hungry man has in eating a luxurious dinner. You see I put the case fairly. A hungry man may have as much, nay, more pleasure in eating a plain dinner, than a man
rown fastidious has in eating a luxurious dinner. But I suppose the man who decides between the two dinners, to be equally a hungry man."
Talking of different governments --JOHNSON. “The more contracted power is, the more easily it is destroyed. A country governed by a despot is an inverted cone. Government there cannot be so firm, as when it rests upon a broad basis gradually contracted, as the government of Great Britain, which is founded on the parliament, then is in the privy-council, then in the King." BOSWELL. “ Power, when contracted into the person of a despot, may be easily destroyed, as the prince may be cut off. So Caligula wished that the people of Rome had but one neck, that he might cut them off at a blow." OGLETHORPE. " It was of the Senate he wished that. The Senate by its usurpation controuled both the Emperour and the people. And don't you think that we see too much of that in our own parliament ?"
Dr. Johnson endeavoured to trace the etymology of Maccaronick verses, which he thought were of Italian invention from Maccaroni ; but on being informed that this would infer that they were the most common and easy verses, maccaroni being the most ordinary and simple food, he was at a loss; for he said, “ He rather should have supposed it to import in its primitive signification, a composition of several things ;: for Macca
3 [Dr. Johnson was right in supposing that this kind of poetry derived its name from maccherone. “ Ars ista poetica (says Martin Coecaie, whose true name was