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hold up your hands '.-Carried unanimously.” BosWELL. “He will be our dictator." JOHNSON. “No, the company is to dictate to me. I am only to write for wine; and I am quite disinterested, as I drink none; I shall not be suspected of having forged the application. I am no more than humble scribe.” E.“ Then you shall prescribe.” BOSWELL.“ Very well. The first play of words to-day.” J. “No, no; the bulls in Ireland.” JOHNSON. “ Were I
your dictator, you should have no wine. It would be my business cavere ne quid detrimenti Respublica caperet, and wine is dangerous. Rome was ruined by luxury.” (smiling). E. “ If you allow no wine as dictator, you shall not have me for your master of horse.”
On Saturday, April 1, I drank tea with Johnson at Dr. Taylor's, where he had dined. He entertained us with an account of a tragedy written by a Dr. Kennedy (not the Lisbon physician). * * * * * *
He was very silent this evening, and read in a variety of books; suddenly throwing down one, and taking up another. He talked of going to Streatham that night. Tay
“ You'll be robbed, if you do; or you must shoot a highwayman. Now I would rather be robbed than do that; I would not shoot a highwayman. JOHNSON. “But I would rather shoot him in the instant when he is attempting to rob me, than afterwards swear against him at the Old Bailey, to take away his life, after he has robbed me. I am surer I am right in the one case, than in the other, I may be mistaken as to the man when I swear; I cannot be mistaken, if I shoot him in the act. Besides, we feel less reluctance to take away a man's life, when
· [This supports the conjecture that Dr.Johnson was not the President. -Ed.]
2 (Here a few lines, relating to the disgusting and indelicate subject of this tragedy, are omitted.--En.]
we are heated by the injury, than to do it at a distance of time by an oath, after we have cooled.” BOSWELL. “So, sir, you would rather act from the motive of private passion, than that of publick advantage. JOHNSON. “Nay, sir, when I shoot the highwayman, I act from both.” BOSWELL. “Very well, very well. There is no catching him.” Johnson. “At the same time, one does not know what to say. For perhaps one may, a year after, hang himself from uneasiness for having shot a highwayman'. Few minds are fit to be trusted with so great a thing." BosWELL. “ Then, sir, you would not shoot him?” JOHNSON. “But I might be vexed afterwards for that too."
Thrale's carriage not having come for him, as he expected, I accompanied him some part of the way home to his own house. I told him, that I had talked of him to Mr. Dunning a few days before, and had said, that in his company we did not so much interchange conversation, as listen to him ; and that Dunning observed, upon this, “One is always willing to listen to Dr. Johnson;" to which I answered, " That is a great deal from you, sir." “Yes, sir,” said Johnson, “ a great deal indeed. Here is a man willing to listen, to whom the world is listening all the rest of the year.” BOSWELL. “I think, sir, it is right to tell one man of such a handsome
i The late Duke of Montrose was generally said to have been uneasy on that account; but I can contradict the report from his grace's own authority. As he used to admit me to very easy conversation with him, I took the liberty to introduce the subject. His grace told me, that when riding one night near London, he was attacked by two highwaymen on horseback, and that he instantly shot one of them, upon which the other galloped off; that his servant, who was very well mounted, proposed to pursue him and take him, but that his grace said, “ No, we have had blood enough; I hope the man may live to repent. His
grace, upon my presuming to put the question, assured me, that his mind was not at all clouded by what he had thus done in self-defence. --BOSWELL. [This is another striking instance of Mr. Boswell's readiness to ask questions. His curiosity has benefited us, but few could have the boldness to have made such inquiries...Ed.)
? [Yet Mr. Boswell sometimes censures Mrs. Thrale for flattery !--ED.}
thing, which has been said of him by another. It tends to increase benevolence.” JOHNSON. “ Undoubtedly it is right, sir.”
On Tuesday, April 7, I breakfasted with him at his house. He said, “Nobody was content.” I mentioned to him a respectable person in Scotland whom he knew; and I asserted, that I really believed he was always content. JOHNSON. “No, sir, he is not content with the present; he has always some new scheme, some new plantation, something which is future. You know he was not content as a widower, for he married again.' BOSWELL. But he is not restless." JOHNSON. “Sir, he is only locally at rest. A chymist is locally at rest; but his mind is hard at work. This gentleman has done with external exertions. It is too late for him to engage in distant projects.” BOSWELL. “He seems to amuse himself quite well; to have his attention fixed, and his tranquillity preserved by very small matters. I have tried this; but it would not do with me." JOHNSON (laughing). “No, sir; it must be born with a man to be contented to take up with little things. Women have a great advantage that they may take up with little things without disgracing themselves : a man cannot, except with fiddling. Had I learnt to fiddle, I should have done nothing else.” BOSWELL. “ Pray, sir, did you ever play on any musical instrument ?” JOHNSON. “No, sir.
“No, sir. I once bought me a flagelet; but I never made out a tune." BOSWELL. “A flagelet, sir !-so small an instrument ?? I should have liked to hear you play on the violoncello. That should have been your instrument.” JOHNSON. "Sir, I might as well have played on the violoncello as another; but I should have done nothing else. No, sir; a man would never undertake great things, could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting. Dempster's ? sister undertook to teach me; but I could not learn it." BOSWELL. “So, sir; it will be related in pompous narrative, ‘Once for his amusement he tried knotting ; nor did this Hercules disdain the distaff.'” Johnson. “Knitting of stockings is a good amusement. As a freeman of Aberdeen, I should be a knitter of stockings.” He asked me to go down with him and dine at Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to which I agreed. I had lent him “An Account of Scotland, in 1702," written by a man of various inquiry, an English chaplain to a regiment stationed there. JOHNSON. “ It is sad stuff, sir, miserably written, as books in general then were. There is now an elegance of style universally diffused. No man now writes so ill as Martin's Account of the Hebrides' is written. A man could not write so ill, if he should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to write, and he'll do better.”
*[Lord Auchinleck, Mr. Boswell's father. -Ed.]
? When I told this to Miss Seward, she smiled, and repeated with admirable readiness, from “ Acis and Galatea,”
“ Bring me a hundred reeds of ample growth,
He talked to me with serious concern of a certain female friend's? “laxity of narration, and inattention to
'(This is probably a mistake. Johnson does not appear to have had any acquaintance with Mr. Dempster's family. His early friend, Mr. Dyer, had a sister, with whom there is reason to suppose that Johnson was on terms of intimacy; and Mr. Boswell, in copying his notes (in which perhaps the name was abbreviated), may have mistaken Dyer for Dempster.- ED.]
? [Mrs. Thrale. Dr. Johnson is here made to say, that he was weary of chiding her on this subject.” It is, however, remarkable that in all his letters to her-written certainly with equal freedom and affection—there should be no allusion of this kind. Without accusing Mr. Boswell of stating what was not true, we may suspect that on these occasions he did not tell the whole truth; and that Dr. Johnson's expressions were answers to suggestions of his own; and to enable us to judge fairly of the answer, the suggestion itself should have been stated. This seems the more probable from Johnson's saying,
Do talk to her of it;" which would have been a violation of all decency and friendship (considering the relative situations of Mrs. Thrale, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Boswell), if it did not allude to some particular fact of which Boswell hinaself had complained..Ed.] VOL. IV.
“ I am as much vexed," said he,“ at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to her, as at the thing itself. I told her, ' Madam, you are contented to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have died for, rather than bear.' You know, sir, the highest of mankind have died rather than bear to be told they had uttered a falsehood. Do talk to her of it: I am weary.'
BosWELL. “ Was not Dr. John Campbell a very inaccurate man in his narrative, sir ? He once told me, that he drank thirteen bottles of port at a sitting?.” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I do not know that Campbell ever lied with pen and ink; but you could not entirely depend on any thing he told you in conversation, if there was fact mixed with it. However, I loved Campbell : he was a solid orthodox man: he had a reverence for religion. Though defective in practice, he was religious in principle; and he did nothing grossly wrong that I have heard o.
I told him that I had been present the day before, when Mrs. Montagu, the literary lady, sat to Miss Reynolds for her picture; and that she said, " she had bound up Mr. Gibbon's History without the last two offensive chapters; for that she thought the book so far good, as it gave, in an elegant manner,
the substance of the bad writers medii ævi, which the
• Lord Macartney observes upon this passage, “I have heard him tell many things, which, though embellished by their mode of narrative, had their foundation in truth; .but I never remember any thing approaching to this. If he had written it, I should have supposed some wag had put the figure of one before the three.” I am, however, absolutely certain that Dr. Campbell told me it, and I gave particular attention to it, being myself a lover of wine, and therefore curious to hear whatever is remarkable concerning drinking. There can be no doubt that some men can drink, without suffering any injury, such a quantity as to others appears incredible. It is but fair to add, that Dr. Campbell told me, he took a very long time to this great potation; and I have heard Dr. Johnson say, “Sir, if a man drinks very slowly, and lets one glass evaporate before he takes another, I know not how long he may drink.' Dr. Campbell mentioned a colonel of militia who sat with him all the time, and drank equally. BOSWELL.
Dr. John Campbell died about two years before this conversation took place; Dec. 10, 1776 _MAJONE. (See anté, v. ii. p. 117. 203. ED.).