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opinion, unbiassed by any prejudice, or any proud jealousy of a woman 1769.
for his rival, and Mrs.
Johnson proceeded : “ The Scotchman has taken the right method in his • Elements of Criticism. I do not mean that he has taught us any thing ; but he has told us old things in a new way.”
MURPHY. “ He seems to have read a great deal of French criticism, and wants to make it his own; as if he had been for years anatomising the heart of man, and peeping into every cranny of it.” GOLDSMITH. “ It is easier to write that book, than to read it.” Johnson. “We have an example of true criticism in Burke's Effay on the Sublime and Beautiful;' and, if I recollect, there is also Du Bos; and Bouhours, who shews all beauty to depend on truth. There is no great merit in telling how many plays have ghosts in them, and how this ghost is better than that. You must shew how terrour is impressed on the human heart.-In the description of night in Macbeth, the beetle and the bat detract from the general idea of darkness,—inspissated gloom.”
Politicks being mentioned, he faid, “ This. petitioning is a new mode of distressing government, and a mighty easy one. I will undertake to get petitions either against quarter guineas or half guineas, with the help of a little hot wine. There must be no yielding to encourage this. The object is not important enough. We are not to blow up half a dozen palaces, because one cottage is burning.”
The conversation then took another turn. Johnson. “It is amazing what ignorance of certain points one sometimes finds in men of eminence. A wit about town, who wrote Latin bawdy verses, asked me, how it happened that England and Scotland, which were once two. kingdoms, were now one :-and Sir
and considering how many young people were misled by his witty, though false observations,
1769. Fletcher Norton did not seem to know that there were such publications as the Ætat. 60. Reviews.”
“ The ballad of Hardyknute has no great merit, if it be really ancient. People talk of nature. But mere obvious nature may be exhibited with very little power of mind.”
On Thursday, October 19, I passed the evening with him at his house. He advised me to complete a Dictionary of words peculiar to Scotland, of which I shewed him a specimen. Sir, (said he,) Ray has made a collection of north-country words. By collecting those of your country, you will do a useful thing towards the history of the language.” He bade me also go on with collections which I was making upon the antiquities of Scotland. “ Make a large book; a folio.” Boswell. “ But of what use will it be, Sir ?” Johnson. “ Never mind the use ; do it.”
I complained that he had not mentioned Garrick in his Preface to Shakspeare ; and asked him if he did not admire him. Johnson. “Yes, as a poor player, who frets and struts his hour upon the stage ;—as a shadow.” Boswell. “ But has he not brought Shakspeare into notice ?” Johnson. “Sir, to allow that, would be to lampoon the age. Many of Shakspeare's plays are the worse for being acted : Macbeth, for instance.” Boswell. “ What, Sir, is nothing gained by decoration and action ? Indeed, I do wish that you had mentioned Garrick.” Johnson. “My dear Sir, had I mentioned him, I must have mentioned many more : Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Cibber,--nay, and Mr. Cibber too; he too altered Shakspeare.” Boswell. “ You have read his apology, Sir?” Johnson. “Yes, it is very entertaining. But as for Cibber himself, taking from his conversation all that he ought not to have said, he was a poor creature. I remember when he brought me one of his Odes to have my opinion of it, I could not bear such nonsense, and would not let him read it to the end ; so little respect had I for that great man (laughing). Yet I remember Richardson wondering that I could treat him with familiarity.”
I mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn, two days before, and that none of them seemed to be under any concern. Johnson. “ Most of them, Sir, have never thought at all." Boswell. “ But is not the fear of death natural to man?” Johnson. “ So much so, Sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.” He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the aweful hour of his own diffolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occasion: “I know not (faid he,) whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between God and myself.”
Talking of our feeling for the distresses of others ;-Johnson. “ Why, 1769. Sir, there is much noise made about it, but it is greatly exaggerated. No, Etat. 6o. Sir, we have a certain degree of feeling to prompt us to do good : more than that, Providence does not intend. It would be misery to no purpose.” Boswell. “But suppose now, Sir, that one of your intimate friends were apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged.” Johnson. “I should do what I could to bail him, and give him any other assistance; but if he were once fairly hanged, I should not suffer.” Boswell. “ Would you eat your dinner that day, Sir?” Johnson. “Yes, Sir; and eat it as if he were eating it with me. Why, there's Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow, friends have risen up for him on every side ; yet if he should be hanged, none of them will eat a Nice of plumb-pudding the less. Sir, that sympathetick feeling goes a very little way in depressing the mind.”
I told him that I had dined lately at Foote's, who shewed me a letter to him from Tom Davies, telling him that he had not been able to Neep from the concern which he felt on account of this fad affair of Baretti, begging of him to try if he could suggest any thing that might be of service to him ; and at the same time recommending to him an industrious young man who kept a pickle-shop. Johnson. “Aye, Sir, here you have a specimen of human fympathy; a friend hanged, and a cucumber pickled. We know pot whether Baretti or the pickle-man has kept Davies from Neep, nor does he know himself. And as to his not neeping, Sir; Tom Davies is a very great man; Tom has been upon the stage, and knows how to do those things: I have not been upon the stage, and cannot do those things.” Boswell. “I have often blamed myself, Sir, for not feeling for others as sensibly as many say they do.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, don't be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you by feeling.”
Boswell. “ Foote has a great deal of humour ?" Johnson. “ Yes, Sir.” Boswell. “He has a singular talent of exhibiting character.” Johnson, « Sir, it is not a talent, it is a vice; it is what others abstain from. It is not comedy, which exhibits the character of a species, as that of a miser gathered from many misers; it is farce, which exhibits individuals.” Boswell. “ Did not he think of exhibiting you, Sir?” Johnson. “Sir, fear restrained him; he knew I would have broken his bones. I would have saved him the trouble of cutting off a leg; I would not have left him a leg to cut off.” Boswell. “ Pray, Sir, is not Foote an infidel ?” Johnson. “I do not know, Sir, that the fellow is an infidel; but if he be an infidel, he is an infidel as a dog
1769. is an infidel; that is to say, he has never thought upon the subjects."
notions which occurred to his mind.” JOHNSON. “ Why then, Sir, still he is
“ Buchanan (he observed,) has fewer centos than any modern Latin poet.
He again talked of the passage in Congreve with high commendation, and faid, “Shakspeare never has six lines together without a fault. Perhaps you may
find seven: but this does not refute my general assertion. If I come to an orchard, and say there's no fruit here, and then comes a poring man, who finds two apples and three pears, and tells me, “Sir, you are mistaken, I have found both apples and pears,' I should laugh at him : what would that be to the purpose ?”
Boswell.“ What do you think of Dr. Young's 'Night Thoughts,' Sir?” Johnson. “Why, Sir, there are very fine things in them.” Boswell. “ Is there not less religion in the nation now, Sir, than there was formerly?” Johnson. “ I don't know, Sir, that there is.” Boswell. « For instance, there used to be a chaplain in every great family, which we do not find now.” Johnson. “ Neither do you find many of the state servants which great families used formerly to have. There' is a change of modes in the whole department of life.”
Next day, October 20, he appeared, for the only time I suppose in his life, as a witnefs in a Court of Justice, being called to give evidence to the character of Mr. Baretti, who having stabbed a man in the street, was arraigned
s When Mr. Foote was at Edinburgh, he thought fit to entertain a numerous Scotch company with a great deal of coarse jocularity, at the expence of Dr. Johnson, imagining it would be acceptable. I felt this as not civil to me, but sat very patiently till he had exhausted his merriment on that subject; and then observed, that surely Johnson must be allowed to have some sterling wit, and that I had heard him say a very good thing of Mr. Foote himself.“ Ah, my old friend Sam, (cried Foote,) no man fays better things : do let us have it.” Upon which I told the above ftory, which produced a very loud laugh from the company. But I never saw Foote so disconcerted. He looked grave and angry, and entered into a serious refutation of the justice of the remark. “ What, Sir, (said he,) talk thus of a man of liberal education ;-a man who for years was at the University of Oxford ;--a man who has added fixteen new characters to the English drama of his country!"
at the Old Bailey for murder. Never did such a constellation of genius 1769. enlighten the aweful Sessions House; Mr. Burke, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Beau- Ætat. To. clerk, and Dr. Johnson: and undoubtedly their favourable testimony had due weight with the Court and Jury. Johnson gave his evidence in a slow, deliberate, and distinct manner, which was uncommonly impressive. It is well known that Mr. Baretci was acquitted.
On the 26th of October, we dined together at the Mitre tavern. I found fault with Foote for indulging his talent of ridicule at the expence of his visitors, which I colloquially termed making fools of his company. Johnson. " Why, Sir, when you go to see Foote, you do not go to see a faint: you go to see a man who will be entertained at your house, and then bring you on a publick stage; who will entertain you at his house, for the very purpose of bringing you on a publick stage. Sir, he does not make fools of his company; they whom he exposes are fools already: he only brings them into action."
Talking of trade, he observed, “It is a mistaken notion that a vast deal of money is brought into a nation by trade. It is not so. Commodities come from commodities; but trade produces no capital accession of wealth. However, though there should be little profit in money, there is a considerable profit in pleasure, as it gives to one nation the productions of another; as we have wines and fruits, and many other foreign articles, brought to us.” Boswell. “ Yes, Sir, and there is a profit in pleasure, by its furnishing occupation to such numbers of mankind.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, you cannot call that pleasure to which all are averse, and which none begin but with the hope of leaving off; a thing which men disike before they have tried it, and when they have tried it.” Boswell. “But, Sir, the mind must be employed, and we grow weary when idle." Johnson. “ That is, Sir, because, others being busy, we want company; but if we were all idle, there would be no growing weary; we should all entertain one another. There is, indeed, this in trade :--it gives men an opportunity of improving their situation. If there were no trade, many who are poor would always remain poor.
But no man loves labour for itself.” Boswell. “Yes, Sir, I know a person who does. He is a very laborious Judge, and he loves the labour.” Johnson. “ Sir, that is because he loves respect and distinction. Could he have them without labour, he would like it less.” « He tells me he likes it for itself.”
Why, Sir, he fancies so, because he is not accustomed to abstract.”
We went home to his house to tea. Mrs. Williams made it with sufficient dexterity, notwithstanding her blindness, though her manner of satisfying Tt 2