« AnteriorContinuar »
ever.” I asked him privately how he could expose me so. Johnson. “Poh,
He talked of Mr. Blacklock's poetry, so far as it was descriptive of visible objects; and observed, that “ as its authour had the misfortune to be blind, we may be absolutely sure that such passages are combinations of what he has remembered of the works of other writers who could fee. That foolish fellow Spence has laboured to explain philosophically how Blacklock may have done, by means of his own faculties, what it is impossible he should do. The solution, as I have given it, is plain. Suppose, I know a man to be so lame that he is absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find him in a different room from that in which I left him ; shall I puzzle myself with idle conjectures, that, perhaps, his nerves have by some unknown change all at once become effective ? No, Sir; it is clear how he got into a different room. He was carried.”
Having stopped a night at Colchester, Johnson talked of that town with veneration, for having stood a fiege for Charles the First. The Dutchman alone now remained with us. He spoke English tolerably well; and thinking to recommend himself to us by expatiating on the superiority of the criminal jurisprudence of this country over that of Holland, he inveighed against the barbarity of putting an accused person to the torture, in order to force a confeffion. But Johnson was as ready for this, as for the Inquisition.
“Why, Sir, you do not, I find, understand the law of your own country. The 1763.
At supper this night he talked of good eating with uncommon fatisfaction. “Some people (said he,) have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiousy, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind any thing else.” - He now appeared to me Jean Bull philosophe, and he was, for the moment, not only serious but vehement. Yet I have heard him, upon other occasions, talk with great contempt of people who were anxious to gratify their palates; and the 206th number of his Rambler is a masterly essay against gulosity. His practice, indeed, I must acknowledge, may be confidered as casting the balance of his different opinions upon this subject; for I never knew any man who relished good eating more than he did. When at table, he was totally absorbed in the business of the moment; his looks seemed rivetted to his plate; nor would he, unless when in very high company, say one word, or even pay the least attention to what was said by others, till he had satisfied his appetite, which was so fierce, and indulged with such intenseness, that while in the act of eating, the veins of his forehead swelled, and generally a strong perspiration was visible. To those whose sensations were delicate, this could not but be disgusting; and it was doubtless not very suitable to the character of a philosopher, who should be distinguished by selfcommand. But it must be owned, that Johnson, though he could be rigidly abstemious, was not a temperate man either in eating or drinking. He could refrain, but he could not use moderately. He told me, that he had fasted two days without inconvenience, and that he had never been hungry but once. They who beheld with wonder how much he eat upon all occasions when his dinner was to his taste, could not easily conceive what he must have meant by hunger; and not only was he remarkable for the extraordinary quantity which he eat, but he was, or affected to be, a man of very nice discernment in the science of cookery. He used to descant critically on the dishes which had been at table where he had dined or supped, and to recollect very minutely what he had liked. I remember, when he was in Scotland, his praising “ Gordon's palates,” (a dish of palates at the Honourable Alexander Gordon's,) with a warmth of expression which might have done honour to more important
subjects. " As for 's imitation of a made dish it was a wretched attempt. He about the same time was so much displeased with the performances of a nobleman's French cook, that he exclaimed with vehemence, “ I'd throw such a rascal into the river;” and he then proceeded to alarm a lady at whose house he was to sup, by the following manifesto of his skill : “], Madam, who live at a variety of good tables, am a much better judge of cookery, than any person who has a very tolerable cook, but lives much at home; for his palate is gradualiy adapted to the taste of his cook; whereas, Madam, in trying by a wider range, I can more exquisitely judge.” When invited to dine, even with an intimate friend, he was not pleased if something better than a plain dinner was not prepared for him. I have heard him say on such an occasion, “This was a good dinner enough, to be sure; but it was not a dinner to ask a man to.” On the other hand, he was wont to express, with great glee, his fatisfaction when he had been entertained quite to his mind. One day when he had dined with his neighbour and landlord in Bolt-court, Mr. Allen, the printer, whose old housekeeper had studied his taste in every thing, he pronounced this eulogy, “ Sir, we could not have had a better dinner had there been a Synod of Cooks.”
While we were left by ourselves, after the Dutchman had gone to bed, Dr. Johnson talked of that studied behaviour which many have recommended and practised. He disapproved of it; and said, “I never considered whether I should be a grave man, or a merry man, but just let inclination, for the time, have its course.”
He flattered me with some hopes that he would, in the course of the following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour through the Netherlands.
I teized him with fanciful apprehensions of unhappiness. A moth having Auttered round the candle, and burnt itself, he laid hold of this little incident to admonish me; saying, with a sy look, and in a solemn but quiet tone, “ That creature was its own tormentor, and I believe its name was Boswell.”
Next day we got to Harwich to dinner; and my passage in the packetboat to Helvoetsluys being secured, and my baggage put on board, we dined at our inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be terrible if he should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London, and be confined to so dull a place. Johnson. “ Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. It would not be terrible, though I were to be detained some time here.” The practice of using words of disproportionate magnitude,
tude, is, no doubt, too frequent every where; but, I think, most remarkable 1763 among the French, of which, all who have travelled in France must have Æcat. 54. been struck with innumerable instances.
We went and looked at the church, and having gone into it and walked up to the altar, Johnson, whose piety was constant and fervent, sent me to my knees, saying, “ Now that you are going to leave your native country, recommend yourself to the protection of your Creator and Redeemer.”
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “ I refute it thus.” This was a stout exemplification of the first truths of Pere Bouffier, or the original principles of Reid and of Beattie; without admitting which, we can no more argue in metaphysicks, than we can argue in mathematicks without axioms. To me it is not conceivable how Berkeley can be answered by pure reasoning. But I know that the nice and difficult task was to have been undertaken by one of the most luminous minds of the present age; had not politicks “ turned him from calm philosophy aside.” What an admirable display of subtilty, united with brilliance, might his contending with Berkeley have afforded us! How must we, when we reflect on the loss of such an intellectual feast, regret that he should be characterised as the man,
“ Who born for the universe narrowed his mind,
My revered friend walked down with me to the beach, where we embraced and parted with tenderness, and engaged to correspond by letters. I said, “I hope, Sir, you will not forget me in my absence.” Johnson. Nay, Sir, it is more likely you should forget me, than that I should forget you.” As the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him for a considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestick frame in his usual manner; at last I perceived him walk back into the town, and he disappeared.
Utrecht seeming at first very dull to me, after the animated scenes of London, my spirits were grievously affected; and I wrote to Johnson a plaintive and desponding letter, to which he paid no regard. Afterwards, when I had acquired a firmer tone of mind, I wrote him a second letter,
1763. expressing much anxiety to hear from him. At length I received the follow
ing epistle, which was of important service to me, and, I trust, will be fo also to many others.
A Mr. Mr. Boswell, à la Cour de l'Empereur, Utrecht. « DEAR SIR,
“ YOU are not to think yourself forgotten, or criminally neglected, that
you have had yet no letter from me. I love to see my friends, to hear from them, to talk to them, and to talk of them ; but it is not without a considerable effort of resolution that I prevail upon myself to write. I would not, however, gratify my own indolence by the omission of any important duty, or any office of real kindness.
“ To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have or have not been in the country, that I drank your health in the room in which we sat last together, and that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with their former kindness, topicks with which those letters are commonly filled which are written only for the sake of writing, I seldom shall think worth communicating; but if I can have it in my power to calm any harrassing disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, you need not doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer the pleasure of gratifying a friend much less esteemed than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle vacancy. Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of correspondence, I cannot tell. I shall, at present, expect that you will receive this in return for two which I have had from you. The first, indeed, gave me an account fo hopeless of the state of your mind, that it hardly admitted or deserved an answer ; by the second I was much better pleased : and the pleasure will still be increased by such a narrative of the progress of your ftudies, as may evince the continuance of an equal and rational application of your mind to some useful enquiry.
“ You will, perhaps, wish to ask, what study I would recommend. I shall not speak of theology, because it ought not to be considered as a question whether
shall endeavour to know the will of God. “ I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we are at liberty to pursue or to neglect ; and of these I know not how you will make a better choice, than by studying the civil law, as your father advises, and the ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; at least resolve, while you remain in any 4