Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

14

Toleration.

[A.D. 1780.

of the Scotch. One of that nation, (said he, who 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 further notice of you ; but a Scotchman, Sir, though you vote nineteen times against him, will ac-, cost you with cqual complaisance after each time, and the twentieth time, Sir, he will get your vote.'

'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';

See ante, ii. 16.

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. 3 See ante, ii. 287.

" See ante, Aug. 30, 1780. John, Lord Carteret, and Earl Granville, who died Jan. 2, 1763. It is strange that he wrote so ill; for Lord Chesterfield says (N1isc. Works, iv. Appendir, p. 42) that he had brought away with him from Oxford, a great stock of Greek and Latin, and had made himself master of all the modern languages. He was one of the best speakers in the House of Lords, both in the declamatory and argumentative way.'

that

[ocr errors]

Aetat. 71.]

Gray's Odes.

15

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 tallow-chandler to have used." '

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 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 authour 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.

*Talking of Gray's Odes, he said, “They are forced plants raised in a hot-bed'; 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.".

· Walpole describes the partiality of the members of the court-martial that sat on Admiral Keppel in Jan. 1779. One of them'declared frankly that he should not attend to forms of law, but to justice.' So friendly were the judges to the prisoner that it required the almost unanimous voice of the witnesses in favour of his conduct, and the vile arts practised against him, to convince all mankind how falsely and basely he had been accused.' Walpole, referring to the members, speaks of the feelings of seamen unused to reason.' Some of the leading politicians established themselves at Portsmouth during the trial. Journal of the Reign of George III, ii. 329.

? See ante, ii. 276.

3 •In all Gray's Odes, there is a kind of cumbrous splendour which we wish away. ... The mind of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. “ Double, double, toil and trouble.” He has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His art and his struggle are too visible, and there is too little appearance of ease and nature.' Johnson's Works, viii. 484-87. See antc, i. 466, and ii. 374, 383.

16

Lines on the Duke of Leeds.

(A.D. 1780.

* 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'."''

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 rhimes 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 manner. 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 sattin shall wear;
And ride in a coach to take the air,
And have a house in St. James's-square'."

2

One evening, in the Haymarket Theatre, when Foote lighted the King to his chair, his majesty asked who [sic] the piece was written by? "By one of your Majesty's chaplains,” said Foote, unable even then to suppress his wit; "and dull enough to have been written by a bishop.”) Forster's Essays, ii. 435. See ante, i. 452, note 2.

Bk. v. ch. i. 3 See ante', ii. 153, note; and Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 27, and Oct. 28.

- The correspondent of The Gentleman's Magasine (1792, p. 214) who subscribes himself Sciolus furnishes the following supplement : A lady of my acquaintance remembers to have heard her uncle

To

Aetat. 71.] Johnson's contempt for foreigners.

17

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 comprized all the advantages that wealth can give.'

* An eminent foreigner, when he was shewn the British Museum, was very troublesome with many absurd inquiries. "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."

‘His unjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at old Slaughter's coffee-house', when a number of them were talking loud about little matters, he said, “Does not this confirm old Meynell's observation-For any thing I see, foreigners are fools.''

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, &c.

And have a house," &c. 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,” &c.' It is with pleasure I add that this stanza could never be more truly applied than at this present time. BOSWELL. This note was added to the second edition. 1 See ante, i. 133, note.

? See ante, i. 96. 3 Baretti, in a MS. note on Piozzi Letters, i. 121, says :—Johnson was a real true-born Englishman. He hated the Scotch, the French, the Dutch, the Hanoverians, and had the greatest contempt for all other European nations, such were his early prejudices which he never attempted to conquer.' Reynolds wrote of Johnson :— The prejudices he had to countries did not extend to individuals. In reIV.-2

· He

18

A conversation with Dr. Parr.

(A.D. 1780.

He said, that once, when he had a violent tooth-ach, a Frenchman accosted him thus:-Al, Monsieur vous etudica trop'.'

Having spent an evening at Mr. Langton's with the Reverend Dr. Parr, he was much pleased with the conversation of that learned gentleman; and after he was gone, said to Mr. Langton, "Sir, I am obliged to you for having asked me this evening. Parr is a fair man. I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy. It is remarkable how much of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of open discussion?.'

“We may fairly institute a criticism between Shakspeare

spect to Frenchmen he rather laughed at himself, but it was insurmountable. He considered every foreigner as a fool till they had convinced him of the contrary.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 460. Garrick wrote of the French in 1769:-. Their politesse has reduced their character to such a sameness, and their humours and passions are so curbed by habit, that, when you have seen half-a-dozen French men and women, you have seen the whole.' Garrick Corres. i. 358.

1 • There is not a man or woman here,' wrote Horace Walpole from Paris (Letters, iv. 434), “that is not a perfect old nurse, and who does not talk gruel and anatomy with equal fluency and ignorance.'

? «“I remember that interview well," said Dr. Parr with great vehemence when once reminded of it; “I gave him no quarter. The subject of our dispute was the liberty of the press. Dr. Johnson was very great. Whilst he was arguing, I observed that he stamped. Upon this I stamped. Dr. Johnson said, 'Why did you stamp, Dr. Parr?' I replied, · Because you stamped; and I was resolved not to give you the advantage even of a stamp in the argument.' This, Parr said, was by no means his first introduction to Johnson. Field's Parr, i. 161. Parr wrote to Romilly in 1811 :- Pray let me ask whether you have ever read some admirable remarks of Mr. Hutcheson upon the word merit. I remember controversy I had with Dr. Johnson upon this very term: we began with theology fiercely, I gently carried the conversation onward to philosophy, and after a dispute of more than three hours he lost sight of my heresy, and came over to my opinion upon the metaphysical import of the term.' Life of Romilly, ii. 365. When Parr was a candidate for the mastership of Colchester Grammar School, Johnson wrote for him a letter of recommendation. Johnstone's Parr, i. 94.

and

« AnteriorContinuar »