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should have been your instrument.” JOHNSOX. “Sir, I might as well have played on the violoncello as another ; but I should have done nothing else. No, sir; a man would never undertake great things, could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting. Dempster's sister undertook to teach me; but I could not learn it.” Boswell, “So, sir; it will be related in pompous narrative, . Once for his amusement he tried knotting; nor did this Hercules disdain the distaff.'” Johnson. “Knitting of stockings is a good amusement. As a freeman of Aberdeen, I should be a knitter of stockings.” He asked me to go down with him and dine at Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to which I agreed. I had lent him “ An Account of Scotland, in 1702,” written by a man of various inquiry, an English chaplain to a regiment stationed there. JOHNSON. “ It is sad stuff, sir, miserably written, as books in general then were. There is now an elegance of style universally diffused. No man now writes so ill as Martin's Account of the Hebrides' is written. A man could not write so ill, if he should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to write, and he'll do better."
He talked to me with serious concern of a certain female friend's “laxity of narration, and inattention to
[This is probably a mistake. Johnson does not appear to have had any acquaintance with M. Dempster's family. His early friend, Mr. Dyer, had a sister, with whom there is reason to suppose that Johnson was on terms of inti. macy; and Mr. Boswell, in copying his notes (in which perhaps the name was abbreviated), may have mistaken Dyer for Dempster.—ED.)
* (Mrs. Thrale. Dr. Johnson is here made to say, that he was “ weary of chiding her on this subject.” It is, however, remarkable that in all his letters to her—written certainly with equal fre dom and affection—there should be po allusion of this kind. Without accusing Mr. Boswell of stating what was not true, we may suspect that on these occasions he did not tell the whole truth; and that Dr. Johnson's expressions were answers to suggestions of his own; and to enable us to judge fairly of the answer, the suggestion itself should have been stated. This seems the more probable from Johnson's saying, * Do talk to her of it;" which would have been a violation of all decency and friendship (considering the relative situations of Mrs. Thrale, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Boswell), if it did not allude to some particular fact of which Boswell bimself had complained.-Ed.] VOL. IV.
truth.” “I am as much vexed,” said he, “at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to her, as at the thing itself. I told her, ' Madam, you are contented to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have died for, rather than bear.' You know, sir, the highest of mankind have died rather than bear to be told they had uttered a falsehood. Do talk to her of it: I am weary.”
BOSWELL. “Was not Dr. John Campbell a very inaccurate man in his narrative, sir? He once told me, that he drank thirteen bottles of port at a sitting." JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I do not know that Campbell ever lied with pen and ink; but you could not entirely depend on any thing he told you in conversation, if there was fact mixed with it. However, I loved Campbell: he was a solid orthodox man : he had a reverence for religion. Though defective in practice, he was religious in principle; and he did nothing grossly wrong that I have heard.”
I told him that I had been present the day before, when Mrs. Montagu, the literary lady, sat to Miss Reynolds for her picture; and that she said, “she had bound up Mr. Gibbon's History without the last two offensive chapters; for that she thought the book so far good, as it gave, in an elegant manner, the substance of the bad writers medii avi, which the late Lord Lyttleton advised her to read.” Johnson. “Sir, she has not read them: she shows none of this impetuosity to me: she does not know Greek, and, I fancy, knows little Latin. She is willing you should think she knows them ; but she does not say she does." BOSWELL. “Mr. Harris, who was present, agreed with her.” JOHNSON. “Harris was laughing at her, sir. Harris is a sound sullen scholar; he does not like interlopers. Harris, however, is a prig, and a bad prig”. I looked into his book, and thought he did not understand his own system.” BOSWELL. “ He says plain things in a formal and abstract way, to be sure; but his method is good : for to have clear notions upon any subject, we must have recourse to analytick arrangement.” JOHNSON. “Sir, it is what every body does, whether they will or no. But sometimes things may be made darker by definition. I see a cow. I define her, Animal quadrupes ruminans cornutum. But a goat ruminates, and a cow may have no horns. Cow is plainer.” BOSWELL. “I think Dr. Franklin's definition of Man a good one-- A tool-making animal.'” JOHNSON.
Lord Macartney observes upon this passage, “ I have heard him tell many things, which, though embellished by their mode of narrative, had their founda. tion in truth; but I never remember any thing approaching to this. If he had written it, I should have supposed some wag had put the figure of one before the three.” I am, however, absolutely certain that Dr. Campbell told me it, and I gave particular attention to it, being myself a lover of wine, and therefore curious to hear whatever is remarkable concerning drinking. There can be no doubt that some men can drink, without suffering any injury, such a quantity as to others appears incredible. It is but fair to add, that Dr. Campbell told me, he took a very long time to this great potation ; and I have heard Dr. Johnson say, “Sir, if a man drinks very slowly, and lets one glass evaporate before he takes another, I know not how long he may drink." Dr. Campbell mentioned a colonel of militia who sat with him all the time, and drank equally. -BoswelL.
2 Dr. John Campbell died about two years before this conversation took place ; Dec. 10, 1776 - MALONE. (See anti, v. ii. p. 117. 203.--En.]
inany a man never made a tool: and suppose a man without arms, he could not make a tool.”
(All this must be truncated and distorted. Mrs. Montagu did not say that she had read these authors, but had been advised to read them ; and the infer. ence from what she did say might be, that she had read Gibbon instead : and surely the word “ impetuosity” must be a mistake, arising, perhaps, from Mr. Boswell's not being able to decipher his own manuscript. Then, again, Mr. Harris is said to agree with her-in what ?_in thinking that Gibbon's History gave, in an elegant manner, the substance of the writers of the medii ævi. How could this be laughing at her? Mr. Boswell says elsewhere of himself, brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.-ED.)
- What my friend meant by these words concerning the amiable philosopher of Salisbury, I am at a loss to understand. A friend suggests, that Johnson thought his manner as a writer affected, while at the same time the matter did Dot compensate for that fault. In short, that he meant to make a remark quite different from that which a celebrated gentleman made on a very eminent physician: He is a coxcomb, but a satisfactory coxcomb.--BOSWELL. The celebrated gentleman here alluded to was the late Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton.-MALONE,
Talking of drinking wine, he said, “ I did not leave off wine, because I could not bear it; I have drunk three bottles of port without being the worse for it. University College has witnessed this.” BosWELL. “Why then, sir, did you leave it off?” JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, because it is so much better for a man to be sure that he is never to be intoxicated, never to lose the power over himself. I shall not begin to drink wine again till I grow old', and want it.” BoswELL. “ I think, sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life.” JOHNSON.“ It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational.” BoswELL. “But if we could have pleasure always, should not we be happy? The greatest part of men would compound for pleasure.” JOHNSON. “Supposing we could have pleasure always, an intellectual man would not compound for it. The greatest part of men would compound, because the greatest part of men are gross.'
BOSWELL. “I allow there may be greater pleasure than from wine. I have had more pleasure from your conversation. I have indeed ; I assure you I have.” Johnson. “When we talk of pleasure, we mean sensual pleasure. **** Philosophers tell you, that pleasure is contrary to happiness. Gross men prefer animal pleasure. So there are men who have preferred living among savages. Now what a wretch must he be, who is content with such conversation as can be had among savages! You may remember an officer at Fort Augustus, who had served in America, told us of a woman whom they were obliged to bind, in order to get her back from savage life.” BOSWELL. “ She
(He was now in his seventieth year.--Ev.)
must have been an animal, a beast.” Johnsox. “Sir, she was a speaking cat."
I mentioned to him that I had become very weary in company where I heard not a single intellectual sentence, except that a man who had been settled ten years in Minorca was become a much inferiour man to what he was in London, because a man's inind grows narrow in a narrow place.” Johnson. “ A man's mind grows narrow in a narrow place, whose mind is enlarged only because he has lived in a large place: but what is got by books and thinking is preserved in a narrow place as well as in a large place. A man cannot know modes of life as well in Minorca as in London; but he may study mathematicks as well in Minorca.” BOSWELL. “I don't know, sir: if you had remained ten years in the Isle of Col, you would not have been the man that you now are." JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir, if I had been there from fifteen to twenty-five; but not if from twenty-five to thirtyfive.” BOSWELL. “I own, sir, the spirits which I have in London make me do every thing with more readiness and vigour. I can talk twice as much in London as any where else."
Of Goldsmith, he said, “ He was not an agreeable companion, for he talked always for fame'. A man who does so never can be pleasing. The man who talks to unburden his mind is the man to delight you. An eminent friend of ours is not so agreeable as the variety of his knowledge would otherwise inake him, because he talks partly from ostentation.”
Soon after our arrival at Thrale's, I heard one of the maids calling eagerly on another to go to Dr. Johnson. I wondered what this could mean. I afterwards learnt, that it was to give her a Bible,
(See ante, vol. ii. p. 179. 168. 502, and vol. iii. p. 101. En.j » (Mr. Burke. -Ed.]