« 前へ次へ »
the Reverend Dr. Percy. Talking of Goldsmith, Johnson said, he was very envious. I defended him, by observing, that he owned it frankly upon all occasions. Johnson. “ Sir, you are enforcing the charge. He had so much envy, that he could not conceal it. He was so full of it, that he overflowed. He talked of it, to be sure, often enough. Now, sir, what a man avows, he is not ashamed to think; though many a man thinks what he is ashamed to avow. We are all envious naturally; but by checking envy, we get the better of it. So we are all thieves naturally; a child always tries to get at what it wants the nearest way: by good instruction and good habits this is cured, till a man has not even an inclination to seize what is another's; has no struggle with himself about it.”
And here I shall record a scene of too much heat between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Percy, which I should have suppressed, were it not that it gave occasion to display the truly tender and benevolent heart of Johnson, who, as soon as he found a friend was at all hurt by any thing which he had “ said in his wrath,” was not only prompt and desirous to be reconciled, but exerted himself to make ample reparation.
Books of travels having been mentioned, Johnson praised Pennant very highly, as he did at Dunvegan, in the Isle of Sky'. Dr. Percy knowing himself to be the heir male of the ancient Percies, and having
[See ante, vol. ii. p. 443.-ED.) ? See this accurately stated, and the descent of his family from the Earls of Northumberland clearly deduced in the Rev. Dr. Nash's excellent “ History of Worcestershire," vol. ii
. p. 318. The Doctor has subjoined a note, in which he says, “ The editor hath seen, and carefully examined the proofs of all the particulars above-mentioned, now in the possession of the Rev. Thomas Percy." The same proofs I have also myself carefully examined, and have seen some additional proofs which have occurred since the doctor's book was published ; and both as a lawyer accustomed to the consideration of evidence, and as a genealogist versed in the study of pedigrees, I ain fully satisfied. I cannot help observing, as a circumstance of no small moment, that in tracing the Bishop of
the warmest and most dutiful attachment to the noble house of Northumberland, could not sit quietly and hear a man praised, who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick Castle and the duke's pleasure-grounds, especially as he thought meanly of his travels. He therefore opposed Johnson eagerly. JOHNSON. “Pennant, in what he has said of Alnwick, has done what he intended; he has made you very angry.” PERCY. “ He has said the garden is trim, which is representing it like a citizen's parterre, when the truth is, there is a very large extent of fine turf and gravel walks.” JOHNSON. “ According to your own account, sir, Pennant is right. It is trim. Here is grass cut close, and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that trim? The extent is nothing against that; a mile may be as trim as a square yard. Your extent puts me in mind of the citizen's enlarged dinner, two pieces of roast-beef, and two puddings'. There is no variety, no mind exerted in laying out the ground, no trees.” PERCY. “ He pretends to give the natural history of Northumberland, and yet takes no notice of the immense number of trees planted there of late.” JOHNSON.
That, sir, has nothing to do with the natural history; that is civil history. A man who gives the
Dromore's genealogy, essential aid was given by the late Elizabeth Duchess of Northumberland, heiress of that illustrious house; a lady not only of high dignity of spirit, such as became her noble blood, but of excellent understanding and lively talents. With a fair pride I can boast of the honour of her grace's correspondence, specimens of which adorn my archives.-_Boswell.
[It is observable that the same illustration of the same subject is to be found in the Heroick Epistle to Sir William Chambers :
" For what is nature ?-ring her changes round,
Her three feet notes arc water, plants, and ground;
Three roasted geese, three butter'd apple pies.” The Heroick Epistle had appeared in 1773; so that Johnson no doubt borrowed the idea from that spirited and pungent satire. - En.]
natural history of the oak, is not to tell how many oaks have been planted in this place or that. A man who gives the natural history of the cow, is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington. The animal is the same whether milked in the Park or at Islington.” PERCY. “Pennant does not describe well; a carrier who goes along the side of Lochlomond would describe it better." Johnson. “I think he describes very well.” PERCY. “I travelled after him." JOHNSON. “And I travelled after him.” PERCY. “But, my good friend, you are short-sighted, and do not see so well as I do.” I wondered at Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time ; but inflammable particles were collecting for a cloud to burst. In a little while Dr. Percy said something more in disparagement of Pennant. Johnson (pointedly). “ This is the resentment of a narrow mind, because he did not find every thing in Northumberland.” PERCY (feeling the stroke). “Sir, you may be as rude as you please.” JOHNSON. “Hold, sir! Don't talk of rudeness : remember, sir, you told me,” puffing hard with passion struggling for a vent, “I was short-sighted. We have done with civility. We are to be as rude as we please.” PERCY. “ Upon my honour, sir, I did not mean to be uncivil." JOHNSON. “I cannot say so, sir; for I did mean to be uncivil, thinking you had been uncivil.” Dr. Percy rose, ran up to him, and taking him by the hand, assured him affectionately that his meaning had been misunderstood ; upon which a reconciliation instantly took place. Johnson. “My dear sir, I am willing you shall hang Pennant.” PERCY (resuming the former subject).
66 Pennant complains that the helmet is not hung out to invite to the hall of hospitality. Now I never heard that
it was a custom to hang out a helmet'.” Johnson. “Hang him up, hang him up.” BOSWELL (humouring the joke). “Hang out his skull instead of a helmet, and you may drink ale out of it in your hall of Odin, as he is your enemy; that will be truly ancient. There will be ‘Northern Antiquities":"” JOHNSON. “ He's a whig, sir ; a sad dog,” smiling at his own violent expressions, merely for political difference of opinion: “but he's the best traveller I ever read ; he observes more things than any one else does."
I could not help thinking that this was too high praise of a writer who traversed a wide extent of country in such haste, that he could put together only curt frittered fragments of his own, and afterwards procured supplemental intelligence from parochial ministers, and others not the best qualified or most partial narrators, whose ungenerous prejudice against the house of Stuart glares in misrepresentation; a writer, who at best treats merely of superficial objects, and shows no philosophical investigation of character and manners, such as Johnson has exhibited in his masterly “ Journey” over part of the same ground; and who, it should seem from a desire of ingratiating himself with the Scotch, has flattered the people of North Britain so inordinately and with so little discrimination, that the judicious and candid amongst them must be disgusted, while they value more the plain, just, yet kindly report of Johnson.
Having impartially censured Mr. Pennant, as a Traveller in Scotland, let me allow him, from authorities much better than mine, his deserved praise
1 It certainly was a custom, as appears from the following passage in “ Perceforest, vol. iii. p. 108:-“ Fasoient mettre au plus hault de leur hostel un heaulme, en signe que tous les gentils hommes et gentilles femmes entrassent hardiment en leur hostel comme en leur propre," &c. - KEARNEY. The author's second son, Mr. James Boswell, had noticed this passage in “ Perceforest," and suggested to me the same remark. -MALONE.
2 The title of a book translated by Dr. Perey.--BoswELL.
as an able zoologist ; and let me also, from my own understanding and feelings, acknowledge the merit of his “ London,” which, though said to be not quite accurate in some particulars, is one of the most pleasing topographical performances that ever appeared in any language. Mr. Pennant, like his countrymen in general, has the true spirit of a gentleman. As a proof of it, I shall quote from his “ London" the passage in which he speaks of my illustrious friend.
“ I must by no means omit Bolt-court, the long residence of Dr. Samuel Johnson, a man of the strongest natural abilities, great learning, a most retentive memory, of the deepest and most unaffected piety and morality, mingled with those numerous weaknesses and prejudices which his friends have kindly taken care to draw from their dread abode'. I brought on myself his transient anger, by observing that in his tour in Scotland, he once had long and woful experience of oats being the food of men in Scotland as they were of horses in England. It was a national reflection unworthy of him, and I shot my bolt. In turn he gave me a tender hug? Con amore he also said of me, * The dog is a whig". I admired the virtues of Lord Russel, and pitied his fall. I should have been a whig at the Revolution. There have been periods since in which I should have been, what I now am, a moderate tory, a supporter, as far as my little influence extends, of a well-poised balance between the crown and the people; but should the scale preponderate against the salus populi, that moment may it be said, “ The dog's a whig!""
We had a calm after the storm, staid the evening and supped, and were pleasant and gay.
But Dr. Percy told me he was very uneasy at what had passed; for there was a gentleman there who was acquainted with the Northumberland family, to whom he hoped
· This is the common cant against faithful biography. Does the worthy gentleman mean that I, who was taught discrimination of character by Johnson, should have omitted his frailties, and, in short, have bedawbed him as the worthy gentleman has bedawbed Scotland ?-BOSWELL.
2 See Dr. Johnson's “ Journey to the Western Islands," p. 296 ; see his Dic tionary article, oats ; and my “Voyage to the Hebrides,” first edition.—PEN. NANT. 3 Mr. Boswell's Journal, ante, vol. ii. p. 387.-PENNANT.