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1763. There was here, most certainly, an affectation of more Jacobitism than he Ætat. 54. really had, and indeed an intention of admitting, for the moment, in a much
greater extent than it really existed, the charge of disaffection imputed to him by the world, merely for the purpose of thewing how dexterously he could repel an attack, even though he were placed in the most disadvantageous position ; for I have heard him declare, that if holding up his right hand would have secured victory at Culloden to Prince Charles's army, he was not sure he would have held it up; so little confidence had he in the right claimed by the house of Stuart, and so fearful was he of the consequences of another revolution on the throne of Great-Britain ; and Mr. Topham Beauclerk assured me, he had heard him say this before he had his pension. At another time he faid to Mr. Langton, “ Nothing has ever offered that has made it worth my while to consider the question fully.” He, however, also said to the same gentleman, talking of King James the Second, “ It was become impossible for him to reign any longer in this country.” He no doubt had an early attachment to the house of Stuart; but his zeal had cooled as his reason strengthened. Indeed I heard him once say, that “after the death of a violent Whig, with whom he used to contend with great eagerness, he felt his Toryism much abated 3.” I suppose he meant Mr. Walmsey.
He advised me, when abroad, to be as much as I could with the Professors in the Universities, and with the Clergy; for from their conversation I might expect the best accounts of every thing in whatever country I should be, with the additional advantage of keeping my learning alive.
It will be observed, that when giving me advice as to my travels, Dr. Johnson did not dwell upon cities, and palaces, and pictures, and shews, and Arcadian scenes. He was of Lord Essex's opinion, who advises his kinsman Roger Earl of Rutland,“ rather to go an hundred miles to speak with one wise man, than five miles to see a fair town 4.”
I described to him an impudent fellow from Scotland, who affected to be a savage, and railed at all established systems. Johnson. “ There is nothing. surprizing in this, Sir. He wants to make himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hog-stye, as long as you looked at him and called to him to come out.. But let him alone, never mind him, and he'll soon give it over.”
I added, that the same person maintained that there was no distinction between virtue and vice. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he
3 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 402,
fpeaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself 1763•
Sir David Dalrymple, now one of the Judges of Scotland by the title of Lord Hailes, had contributed much to increase my high opinion of Johnson, on account of his writings, long before I attained to a personal acquaintance with him ; I, in return, had informed Johnson of Sir David's eminent character for learning and religion ; and Johnson was so much pleased, that at one of our evening meetings he gave him for his toast. I at this time kept up a very frequent correspondence with Sir David; and I read to Dr. Johnson to-night the following passage from the letter which I had last received from him :
“ It gives me pleasure to think that you have obtained the friendship of Mr. Samuel Johnson. He is one of the best moral writers which England has produced. At the same time, I envy you the free and undisguised converse with such a man. May I beg you to present my best respects to him, and to assure him of the veneration which I entertain for the authour of the Rambler and of Raffelas ? Let me recommend this last work to you; with the Rambler you certainly are acquainted. In Rasselas you will see a tenderhearted operator, who probes the wound only to heal it. Swift, on the contrary, mangles human nature. He cuts and Nashes, as if he took pleasure in the operation, like the tyrant who said, Ita feri ut fe fentiat emori.” Johnson seemed to be much gratified by this just and well-turned compliment.
He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise, and would yield me great fatisfaction when the particulars were faded from my remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept such a journal for some time; and it was no sinall pleasure to me to have this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He counselled me to keep it private, and said I might surely have a friend who would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I have been enabled to give the world so many anecdotes, which would otherwise have been lost to pofterity. I mentioned that I was afraid I put into my journal too many little incidents. Johnson. “ There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man, It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.” Hh 2
Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on me, and was so much struck even with the imperfect account which I gave him of Dr. Johnson's conversation, that to his honour be it recorded, when I complained that drinking port and fitting up late with him, affected my nerves for some time after, he said, “ One had better be pallied at eighteen, than not keep company with such a man."
On Tuesday, July 18, I found tall Sir Thomas Robinson sitting with Johnson. Sir Thomas said, that the King of Prussia valued himself upon three things ;--upon being a hero, a musician, and an authour. Johnson. “ Pretty well, Sir, for one man. As to his being an authour, I have not looked at his poetry; but his prose is poor stuff. He writes just as you might fuppofe Voltaire's footboy to do, who has been his amanuensis. He has such parts as the valet might have, and about as much of the colouring of the style as might be got by transcribing his works.” When I was at Ferney, I repeated this to Voltaire, in order to reconcile him somewhat to Johnson; whom he, in affecting the English mode of expression, had previously characterised as “a superstitious dog;” but after hearing such a criticism on Frederick the Great, with whom he was then on bad terms, he exclaimed, “ An honest fellow !”
But I think the criticisin much too fevere; for the “Memoirs of the House of Brandenburgh” are written as well as many works of that kind. His
poetry, for the style of which he himself makes a frank apology, “ Jargonnant un François barbare,” though fraught with pernicious ravings of infidelity, has, in many places, great animation, and in some a pathetick tenderness.
Upon this contemptuous animadversion on the King of Prusia, I observed to Johnson, “ It would seem then, Sir, that much lefs parts are necessary to make a King, than to make an Authour; for the King of Prussia is confessedly the greatest King now in Europe, yet you think he makes a very poor figure as an Authour.”
Mr. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson's library, which was contained in two garrets over his Chambers, where Lintot, son of the celebrated bookfeller of that name, had formerly his printing-house. I found a number of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion. The floor was strewed with manuscript leaves, in Johnson's own hand-writing, which I beheld with a degree of veneration, supposing they perhaps might contain portions of the Rambler, or of Rasselas. I observed an apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life very fond. The place seemed to be very favourable for retirement and meditation, Johnson told me, that he went up
thither without mentioning it to his servant, when he wanted to study, secure 1763. from interruption ; for he would not allow his servant to say he was not at Atat. 54. home when he really was. “A fervant's strict regard for truth, (said he) must be weakened by such a practice. A philofopher may know that it is merely a form of denial; but few servants are such nice distinguishers. If I accustom a servant to tell a lye for me, have I not reason to apprehend that he will tell many lies for himself ?” I am, however, fatisfied that every fervant, of any degree of intelligence, understands saying his master is not at home, not at all as the affirmation of a fact, but as customary words, intimating that his master wishes not to be seen; so that there can be no bad effect from it. Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall, who had been
intimate friend for many years, had at this time chambers in Farrar's-buildings, at the bottom of Inner Temple-lane, which he kindly lent me upon my quitting my lodgings, he being to return to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. ] found them particularly convenient for me, as they were so near Dr. Johnson's.
On Wednesday, July 20, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Dempster, and my uncle Dr. Boswell, who happened to be now in London, fupped with me at these Chambers. Johnson. “ Pity is not natural to man. Children are always cruel. Savages are always cruel. Pity is acquired and improved by the cultivation of reason. We may have uneasy sensations frorn seeing a creature in distress, without pity; for we have not pity unless we wish to relieve them. When I am on my way to dine with a friend, and finding it late, have bid the coachman make haste, if I happen to attend when he whips his horses, I may feel unpleasantly that the animals are put to pain, but I do not wish him to desist. No, Sir, I wish him to drive on.”
Mr. Alexander Donaldson, bookseller of Edinburgh, had for some time opened a shop in London, and sold his cheap editions of the most popular English books, in defiance of the supposed common-law right of Literary Property. Johnson, though he concurred in the opinion which was afterwards sanctioned by a decree from the House of Lords, that there was no such right, was at this time very angry that the booksellers of London, for whom he uniformly professed much regard, should suffer from an invasion of what they had ever considered to be secure, and he was loud and violent against Mr. Donaldson. “ He is a fellow who takes advantage of the law to injure his brethren ; for, notwithstanding that the statute secures only fourteen years of exclusive right, it has always been understood by the trade, that he, who buys the copy-right of a book from the authour, obtains a perpetual property; and
upon that belief, numberless bargains are made to transfer that property after the expiration of the statutory term. Now Donaldson, I say, takes advantage here, of people who have really an equitable title from usage ; and if we consider how few of the books, of which they buy the property, succeed so well as to bring profit, we should be of opinion that the term of fourteen
is too short; it should be sixty years.” DEMPSTER. “ Donaldson, Sir, is anxious for the encouragement of literature. He reduces the price of books, so that poor
students may buy them.” Johnson, (laughing.). “ Well, Sir, allowing that to be his motive, he is no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the rich in order to give to the poor.'
It is remarkable, that when the great question concerning Literary Property came to be ultimately tried before the supreme tribunal of this country, in consequence of the very spirited exertions of Mr. Donaldson, Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity ; but he thought that the term of the exclusive right of authours should be considerably enlarged. He was then for granting a hundred years.
The conversation now turned upon Mr. David Hume's style. Johnson.
Why, Sir, his style is not English; the structure of his sentences is French. Now the French structure and the English structure may, in the nature of things, be equally good. But if you allow that the English language is established, he is wrong. My name might originally have been Nicholson, as well as Johnson; but were you to call me Nicholson now, you would call me very absurdly.”
Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind was at this time a fashionable topick. It gave rise to an observation by Mr. Dempster, that the advantages of fortune and rank were nothing to a wise man, who ought to value only merit. Johnson.
Johnson. “ If man were a savage, living in the woods by himself, this might be true; but in civilised society we all depend upon each other, and our happiness is very much owing to the good opinion of mankind. Now, Sir, in civilised society, external advantages make us more respected. A man with a good coat upon his back meets with a better reception than he who has a bad one. Sir, you may analyse this, and say what is there in it? But that will avail you nothing, for it is a part of a general system. Pound St. Paul's church into atoms, and consider any single atom; it is, to be sure, good for nothing: but, put all these atoms together, and you have St. Paul's church. So it is with human felicity, which is made up of many ingredients, each of which may be shewn to be very insignificant. In civilised society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money will. 4