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great courage, in defence of amorous ditties which Johnson: Ætat. 60. despised, till he at last filenced her by saying, “ My dear Lady, talk no more
of this. Nonsense can be defended but by nonsense.”
Mrs. Thrale then praised Garrick's talent for light gay poetry; and, as a specimen, repeated his song in “ Florizel and Perdita,” and dwelt with
pecu. liar pleasure on this line:
" I'd smile with the simple, and feed with the poor.” JOHNSON. “Nay, my dear Lady, this will never do. Poor David! Smile with the simple! What folly is that! And who would feed with the poor that can help it? No, no; let me smile with the wise, and feed with the rich.” I repeated this fally to Garrick, and wondered to find his sensibility as a writer not a little irritated by it. To footh him, I observed, that Johnson spared none of us; and I quoted the passage in Horace, in which he compares one who attacks his friends for the sake of a laugh, to a pushing ox that is marked by a bunch of hay put upon his horns: “ fænum habet in cornu."
Aye, (said Garrick, vehemently,) he has a whole mow of it.”
Talking of history, Johnson said, “ We may know historical facts to be true, as we may know facts in common life to be true. Motives are generally unknown. We cannot trust to the characters we find in history, unless when they are drawn by those who knew the persons; as those, for instance, by Sallust and by Lord Clarendon.”
He would not allow much merit to Whitefield's oratory. “ His popularity, Sir, (said he,) is chiefly owing to the peculiarity of his manner. He would be followed by crowds were he to wear a night-cap in the pulpit, or were he to preach from a tree.”
I know not from what spirit of contradiction he burst out into a violent declamation against the Corsicans, of whose heroism I talked in high terms. “ Sir, (said he,) what is all this rout about the Corsicans ? They have been at war with the Genoese for upwards of twenty years, and have never yet taken their fortified towns. They might have battered down their walls and reduced them to powder in twenty years. They might have pulled the walls in pieces, and cracked the stones with their teeth in twenty years.” It was in vain to argue with him upon the want of artillery: he was not to be resisted for the moment.
On the evening of October 10, I presented Dr. Johnson to General Paoli. I had greatly wished that two men, for whom I had the highest esteem, should
meet. They met with a manly eafe, mutually conscious of their own abili 1769.
He talked a few words of French to the General; but finding he did not do it with facility, he asked for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote the following
J'ai lu dans la geographie de Lucas de Linda un Pater-noster écrit dans une langue toutèfait differente de l’Itelienne, et de toutes autres lesquelles se derivent du Latin. L'auteur l'appelle linguam Corsicæ rutticam; elle a peutetre pasé, peu a peu; mais elle a certainement prevalue autrefois dans les montagnes et dans la campagne. Le même auteur dit la même chose en parlant de Sardaigne ; qu'il y a deux langues dans l'isle, une des villes, l'autre de la campagne. SS 2
1769. The General immediately informed him that the lingua rustica was only in Ætat. 60. Sardinia.
Dr. Johnson went home with me, and drank tea till late in the night. He faid, General Paoli had the loftiest port of any man he had ever seen. He denied that military men were always the best bred men.
Perfect good breeding, he observed, consists in having no particular mark of any profession, but a general elegance of manners: whereas, in a military man, you can commonly distinguish the brand of a soldier, l'homme d'epee.
Dr. Johnson shunned to-night any discussion of the perplexed question of fate and free will, which I attempted to agitate : “Sir, (said he,) we know our will is free, and there's an end of't.”
He honoured me with his company at dinner on the 16th of October, at my lodgings in Old Bond-street, with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldfinith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Bickerítaff, and Mr. Thomas Davies. Garrick played round him with a fond vivacity, taking hold of the breasts of his coat, and, looking up in his face with a lively archness, complimented him on the good health which he seemed then to enjoy; while the fage, shaking his head, beheld him with a gentle complacency. One of the company not being come at the appointed hour, I proposed, as usual upon such occafions, to order dinner to be served; adding, “ Ought fix people to be kept waiting for one ?” Why yes, (answered Johnson, with a delicate humanity,) if the one will suffer more by your sitting down, than the six will do by waiting.” Goldsmith, to divert the tedious minutes, strutted about, bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to such impressions. “ Come, come, (faid Garrick,) talk no more of that. You are, perhaps, the worst-eheh!”-Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on, laughing ironically, “Nay, you will always look like a gentleman; but I am talking of being well or ill drejt.” “ Well, let me tell you, (said Goldsmith,) when my tailor brought home my bloom-coloured coat, he said “Sir, I have a favour to beg of you. When any body asks you who made your clothes, be pleased to mention John Phielby, at the Harrow, in Water-lane.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, that was because he knew the strange colour would attract crouds to gaze at it, and thus they might hear of him, and see how well he could make a coat even of so absurd a colour.”
After dinner, our conversation first turned upon Pope. Johnson said, his characters of men were admirably drawn, those of women not so well. He repeated to us, in his forcible melodious manner, the concluding lines of the
Dunciad. While he was talking loudly in praise of those lines, one of the 1769. company ventured to say, “ Too fine for such a poem :-a poem on what ?”
Ætat. 60. Johnson, (with a disdainful look,) “ Why, on dunces. It was worth while being a dunce then. Ah, Sir, hadst thou lived in those days! It is not worth while being a dunce now, when there are no wits.” Bickerstaff observed, as a peculiar circumstance, that Pope's fame was higher when he was alive than it was then. Johnson said, his Pastorals were poor things, though the versification was fine. He told us, with high fatisfaction, the anecdote of Pope's inquiring who was the authour of his “ London,” and saying he will be foon deterré. He observed, that in Dryden's poetry there were passages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach. He repeated some fine lines on love, by the former, (which I have now forgotten,) and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith said, that Pope's character of Addison shewed a deep knowledge of the human heart. Johnson said, that the description of the temple, in “ The Mourning Bride,” was the finest poetical passage he had ever read; he recollected none in Shakspeare equal to it.“ But, (faid Garrick, all alarmed for the god of his idolatry,') we know not the extent and variety of his powers. We are to suppose there are such passages in his works. Shakspeare must not suffer from the badness of our memories.” Johnson, diverted by this enthusiastick jealousy, went on with greater ardour : “ No, Sir; Congreve has nature,” (smiling on the tragick eagerness of Garrick ;) but composing himself, he added, “ Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole, with Shakspeare on the whole ; but only maintaining that Congreve has one finer passage than any that can be found in Shakspeare. Sir, a man may have no more than ten guineas in the world, but he may have those ten guineas in one piece; and so may have a finer piece than a man who has ten thousand pounds : but then he has only one tenguinea piece.—What I mean is, that you can shew me no passage where there is simply a description of material objects, without any intermixture of moral notions, which produces such an effect.” Mr. Murphy mentioned Shakspeare's description of the night before the battle of Agincourt; but it was observed, it had men in it. Mr. Davies fuggested the speech of Juliet, in which she figures herself awaking in the tomb of her ancestors. Sorne one mentioned the description of Dover Cliff. Johnson. “ No, Sir; it should be all precipice,—all vacuum. The crows impede your fall. The diminished appearance of the boats, and other circumstances, are all very good description ; but do not impress the mind at once with the horrible idea of immense height. The impression is divided; you pass on by computation, from one stage of
1769. the tremendous space to another. Had the girl in “The Mourning Bride” said, Ærat. 7o. The could not cast her shoe to the top of one of the pillars in the temple,
it would not have aided the idea, but weakened it.”
Talking of a Barrister who had a bad utterance, some one, (to rouse Johnson,) wickedly said, that he was unfortunate in not having been taught oratory by Sheridan. Johnson. “Nay, Sir, if he had been taught by Sheridan, he would have cleared the room.” GARRICK. “ Sheridan has too much vanity to be a good man.” We shall now see Johnson's mode of defending a man; taking him into his own hands, and discriminating. Johnson. “ No, Sir. There is, to be sure, in Sheridan, something to reprehend, and every thing to laugh at; but, Sir, he is not a bad man. No, Sir; were mankind to be divided into good and bad, he would stand considerably within the ranks of good. And, Sir, it must be allowed that Sheridan excels in plain declamation, though he can exhibit no character.”
I should, perhaps, have suppressed this disquisition concerning a person of whose merit and worth I think with respect, had he not attacked Johnson so outrageously in his Life of Swift, and, at the same time, treated us his admirers as a set of pigmies. ' He who has provoked the lash of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it.
Mrs. Montague, a lady distinguished for having written an Essay on Shakspeare, being mentioned ;-Reynolds. “I think that essay does her honcur.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir; it does her honour, but it would do nobody else honour. I have, indeed, not read it all. But when I take up the end of a web, and find it packthread, I do not expect, by looking further, to find embroidery. Sir, I will venture to say, there is not one sentence of true criticism in her book.” GARRICK. “ But, Sir, surely it shews how much Voltaire has mistaken Shakspeare, which nobody else has done.” Johnson. “Sir, nobody else has thought it worth while. And what merit is there in that? You may as well praise a schoolmaster for whipping a boy who has construed ill. No, Sir, there is no real criticism in it; none shewing the beauty of thought, as formed on the workings of the human heart.”
The admirers of this Essay + may be offended at the Nighting manner in which Johnson spoke of it; but let it be remembered, that he gave his honest
+ Of whom I acknowledge myself to be one, considering it as a piece of the secondary or comparative species of criticisin, and not of that profound species which alone Dr. Johnson would allow to be "real criticism." It is, besides, clearly and elegantly expressed, and has done effectually evhat it professed to do, namely, vindicated Shakspeare from the misrepresentations of Voltaire ;