« 前へ次へ »
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Broughton-park, 21st Sept. 1779. “Dear sir,-In the year 1763, being at London, I was carried by Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, to dine at old Lord Bathurst's, where we found the late Mr. Mallet, Sir James Porter, who had been ambassador at Constantinople, the late Dr. Macaulay, and two or three more.
The conversation turning on Mr. Pope, Lord Bathurst told us, that “The Essay on Man' was originally composed by Lord Bolingbroke in prose, and that Mr. Pope did no more than put it into verse: that he had read Lord Bolingbroke's manuscript in his own handwriting ; and remembered well, that he was at a loss whether most to admire the elegance of Lord Bolingbroke's prose, or the beauty of Mr. Pope's verse. When Lord B
hurst told this, Mr. Mallet bade me attend, and remember this remarkable piece of information; as, by the course of Nature, I might survive his lordship, and be a witness of his having said so.
The conversation was indeed too remarkable to be forgotten. A few days after, meeting with you, who were then also at London, you will remember that I mentioned to you what had passed on this subject, as I was much struck with this anecdote. But what ascertains my recollection of it, beyond doubt, is, that being accustomed to keep a journal of what passed when I was at London, which I wrote out every evening, I find the particulars of the above information, just as I have now given them, distinctly marked; and am thence enabled to fix this conversation to have passed on Friday, the 22d of April, 1763.
“I remember also distinctly, (though I have not for this the authority of my journal), that the conversation going on concerning Mr. Pope, I took notice of a report which had been sometimes propagated that he did not understand Greek. Lord Bathurst said to me that he knew that to be false ; for that part of the Iliad was translated by Mr. Pope in his house in the country; and that in the morning when they assembled at breakfast, Mr. Pope used frequently to repeat, with great rapture, the Greek lines which he had been translating, and then to give them his version of them, and to compare them together.
“ If these circumstances can be of any use to Dr. Johnson, you have my full liberty to give them to him. I beg you will, at the same time, present to him my most respectful compliments,
writing of Bolingbroke, and drawn up in a series of propositions, which Pope was to versify and illustrate."-Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, vol. ii. p. 62.-Boswell.
with best wishes for his success and fame in all his literary undertakings. I am, with great respect, my dearest sir, your most affectionate, and obliged humble servant,
“ Hugh BLAIR.” Johnson. “Depend upon it, sir, this is too strongly stated. Pope may have had from Bolingbroke the philosophick stamina of his Essay; and admitting this to be true, Lord Bathurst did not intentionally falsify. But the thing is not true in the latitude that Blair seems to imagine; we are sure that the poetical imagery, which makes a great part of the poem, was Pope's own. It is amazing, sir, what deviations there are from precise truth, in the account which is given of almost every thing. I told Mrs. Thrale, “You have so little anxiety about truth, that you never tax your memory with the exact thing. Now what is the use of the memory to truth, if one is careless of exactness ? Lord Hailes's Annals of Scotland' are very exact; but they contain mere dry particulars. They are to be considered as a Dictionary. You know such things are there; and may be looked at when you please. Robertson paints ; but the misfortune is, you are sure he does not know the people whom he paints; so you cannot suppose a likeness. Characters should never be given by an historian, unless he knew the people whom he describes, or copies from those who knew them."
BOSWELL. “Why, sir, do people play this trick which I observe now, when I look at your grate, putting the shovel against it to make the fire burn?” JOHNSON. “They play the trick, but it does not make the fire burn 1. There is a better (setting the
It certainly does make the fire burn : by repelling the air, it throws a blast on the fire, and so performs the part in some degree of a blower or bellows.KEARNEY. (Dr. Kearney's observation applies only to the shovel ; but by those who have faith in the experiment, the poker is supposed to be equally efficacious. After all, it is possible that, in old times, a large shovel used to be applied to obstruct the upper orifice, and so force the air through the grate, and the practice niay have outlived the instrument which gave rise to it. -Ed.]
poker perpendicularly up at right angles with the grate). In days of superstition they thought, as it made a cross with the bars, it would drive away the witch."
BOSWELL. “By associating with you, sir, I am always getting an accession of wisdom. But perhaps a man, after knowing his own character—the limited strength of his own mind-should not be desirous of having too much wisdom, considering, quid valeant humeri, how little he can carry.” Johnson. “Sir, be as wise as you can; let a man be aliis lætus, sapiens sibi :
• Though pleased to see the dolphins play,
You may be wise in your study in the morning, and gay in company at a tavern in the evening. Every man is to take care of his own wisdom and his own virtue, without minding too much what others think.”
He said “Dodsley first mentioned to me the scheme of an English Dictionary; but I had long thought of it.” BOSWELL. “You did not know what you were undertaking.” Johnson. “Yes, sir, I knew very well what I was undertaking, and very well how to do it, and have done it very well.” BOSWELL. “An excellent climax! and it has availed you. In your preface you say, 'What would it avail me in this gloom of solitude ?' You have been agreeably mistaken."
In his life of Milton, he observes, “I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great man by his biographers: every house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it were an injury to neglect naming any place that he
1 “The Spleen,” a poem, [by Mr. Matthew Green.)—Boswell.
honoured by his presence.” I had, before I read this observation, been desirous of showing that respect to Johnson, by various inquiries. Finding him this evening in a very good humour, I prevailed on him to give me an exact list of his places of residence, since he entered the metropolis as an authour, which I subjoin in a note :
I mentioned to him a dispute between a friend of mine and his lady, concerning conjugal infidelity, which my friend had maintained was by no means so bad in the husband as in the wife. JOHNSON. “Your friend was in the right, sir. Between a man and his Maker it is a different question: but between a man and his wife, a husband's infidelity is nothing. They are connected by children, by fortune, by serious considerations of community. Wise married women don't trouble themselves about infidelity in their husbands.” BOSWELL. “To be sure there is a great difference between the offence of infidelity in a man and that of his wife." Johnson. “The difference is boundless. The man imposes no bastards upon his wife?"
[Here followed the list of residences, which will be found ante, v. i. p. 81. -En.]
· [This seems too narrow an illustration of a “boundless difference.” The introduction of a bastard into a family, though a great injustice and a great crime, is only one consequence (and that an occasional and accidental one) of a greater crime and a more afflicting injustice. The precaution of Julia, alluded to ante, v. iii. p. 390, did not render her innocent. In a moral and in a religious view, the guilt is no doubt equal in man or woman; but have not both Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell overlooked a social view of this subject ? which is perhaps the true reason of the greater indulgence which is generally affo:ded to the infidelity of the man-I mean the effect on the personal character of the different sexes. The crime does not seem to alter or de. base the qualities of the man, in any essential degree; but when the superior purity and delicacy of the woman is once contaminated it is destroyed facilis decensus Averni—she generally falls into utter degradation, and thence, probably, it is that society makes a distinction conformable to its own interests it connives at the offence of men, because men are not much deteriorated as members of general society by the offence, and it is severe against the offence of women, because women, as members of society, are utterly degraded by it. This vicw of the subject will be illustrated by a converse proposition — for instance: The world thinks not the worse, nay rather the better, of a woman for wanting courage ; but such a defect in a man is wholly unpardonable,
Here it may be questioned, whether Johnson was entirely in the right. I suppose it will not be controverted, that the difference in the degree of criminality is very great, on account of consequences: but still it may be maintained, that, independent of moral obligation, infidelity is by no means a light offence in a husband; because it must hurt a delicate attachment, in which a mutual constancy is implied, with such refined sentiments as Massinger has exhibited in his play of “ The Picture.” Johnson probably at another time would have admitted this opinion. And let it be kept in remembrance, that he was very careful not to give any encouragement to irregular conduct. A gentleman, not adverting to the distinction made by him upon this subject, supposed a case of singular perverseñess in a wife, and heedlessly said, “ That then he thought a husband might do as he pleased with a safe conscience.” JOHNSON. Nay, sir, this is wild indeed (smiling); you must consider that fornication is a crime in a single man, and you cannot have more liberty by being married.”
[On all occasions he was inclined to attribute to Ed. the marital character great exemption and authority.] [When any disputes arose between our married ac- Piozzi, quaintance, however, Dr. Johnson always sided with the husband, “whom,” he said, “ the woman had probably provoked so often, she scarce knew when or how she had disobliged him first. Women,” said Dr. Johnson, “ give great offence by a contemptuous spirit of non-compliance on petty occasions. The
because, as Johnson wisely and wittily said, “ he who has not the virtue of courage has no security for any other virtue.” Society, therefore, requires chastity from women as it does courage from men. The Editor, in suggesting this merelyworldly consideration, hopes not to be misunderstood as offering any defence of a breach, on the part of a man, of divine and human laws; he by no means goes so far as Dr. Johnson does in the text, but he has thought it right to suggest a difference on a most important subject, which had been overlooked by that great moralist, or is, at least, not stated by Mr. Boswell.-Ed.]