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General Paoli-Observance of Sunday-Rousseau and Monboddo-Love of Singularity--London Life -- Artemisias - Second Marriages -- Scotch Gardening -- Vails - Prior -- Garrick's Poe’ri -- History-Whitfield-The Corsicans-Good Breeding--Fate and Free-will-Gol. smith's Tailor- The Dunciad-Dryden-Congreve-Sheridan-Mrs. Montagu's Essay--I ord Kames-- Burke, Ballad of Hardyknute-Fear of Death-Sympathy with Distress-Foote Buchanan-Baretti's Trial-Mandeville.
AFTER his return to town, we met frequently, and I continued the practice of making notes of his conversation, though not with so mucb assiduity as I wish I had done. At this time, indeed, I had a sufficient excuse for not being able to appropriate so much time to my journal ; for General Paoli,' after Corsica had been overpowered by the monarchy of France, was now no longer at the head of his brave countrymen ; but having with difficulty escaped from lii native island, had sought an asylum in Great Britain ; and it was my duty, as well as my pleasure, to attend much upon him. Such particulars of Johnson's conversation at this period as I have committed to writing, I shall here introduce, without any strict atten tion to methodical arrangement. Sometimes short notes of different days shall be blended together, and sometimes a day may seem important enough to be separately distinguished.
1 In 1755, Pascal Paoli was appointed first magistrate and general of Corsica. He had been educated at Naples, and was a captain in the service of King Don Carlos. He was tall, young, handsome, learned, and eloquent. In 1769, a French army, commanded by Marshal de l'aux, landed in Corsica. The inhabitants fought resolutely ; but, driven to the south or the island, Paoli embarked, June 16, in an English ship at Porto-Vecchio, landed at Leghorn, crossed the continent, and repaired to London, where he was every where received with tokens of the greatest admiration, both by the people and their princes -NAPOLEON BONA PARTE, Mémoires, tom. iv. p. 36,
He said he would not have Sunday kept with rigid severity and gloom, but with a gravity and simplicity of behaviour.'
I told bin that David Hume had made a short collection of Scotticisms. "I wonder," said Johnson, " that he should find them."*
He would not admit the importance of the question concerning the legality of general warrants. "Such a power,” he observed, “must be vested in every government, to answer particular cases of necessity; and there can be no just complaint but when it is abused, for which those who administer government must be answerable. It is a matter of such indifference, a matter about which the people care so very little, that were a man to be sent over Britain to offer them an exemption from it at a halfpenny apiece, very few would purchase it." This was a specimen of that laxity of talking, which I had heard him fairly acknowledge ; for, surely, while the power of granting general warrants was supposed to be legal, and the apprehension of them hung over our heads, we did not possess that security of freedom, congenial to our happy constitution, and which by the intrepid exertions of Mr. Wilkes, has been happily estab lished.
“ The duration of parliament, whether for seven years or the life of the king, appears to me so immaterial, that I would not give half a crown to turn the scale one way or the other. The habeas corpus is the single advautage which our government has over that of other countries." 3
1 He ridiculed a friend who, looking out on Streatham Common from our windows one day, lamented the enormous wickedness of the times, because some birdcatchers were busy there cne fine Sunday morning. “While half the Christian world is permitted,” said he, “to dance and sing, and celebrate Sunday as a day of festivity, how comes your puritanical spirit so offended with frivolous and empty deviations from exactness? Whoever loads life with unne cessary scruples, Sir," continued he, "provokes the attention of others on his conduct, and Incurs the censure of singularity without reaping the reward of superior virtue "- Piozzi.
2 The first edition of Hume's History of England was full of Scotticisms, many of which h corrected in subsequent editions.-M.
* Did be reckon the power of the Commons over the public purso as nothing! and did he calculate how long the habeas corpus might exist, if the freedom of the press were destroyed, and the duration of parliaments unlimited ?-C.
BOUSSEAU AND MONBODDO.
On the 30th of September we dined together at the Mire. I attempted to argue for the superior happiness of the savage life, upon the usual fanciful topics. Johnson. "Sir, there can be nothing more false. The savages have no bodily advantages beyond those of civilised men. They have not better health ; and as to care or mental uneasiness, they are not above it, but below it, like bears. No, Sir ; you are not to talk such paradox : let me have no more on't. It cannot entertain, far less can it instruct. Lord Monboddo, one of your Scotch judges, talked a great deal of such nonsense. I suffered him ; but I will not suffer you.” BOSWELL.“ But, Sir, does not Rousseau talk such nonsense ?" JOHNSON. " True, Sir ; but Rousseau knows he is talking nonsense, and laughs at the world for staring at him.” BOSWELL. “How so, Sir ?” Johnson. “Why, Sir, a man who talks nonsense so well, must know that he is talking nonsense. But I am afraid (chuckling and laughing), Monboddo does not know that he is talking nonsense.” 1 BOSWELL. “Is it wrong then, Sir, to affect singularity, in order to make people stare ?" Johnson. "Yes, if you do it by propagating error : and, indeed, it is wrong in any way. There is in human nature a general inclination to make people stare ; and every wise man has himself to cure of it, and does cure himself. If you wish to make people stare, by doing better than others, why, make them stare till they stare their eyes out. But consider how easy it is to make people stare, by being absurd. I may do it by going into a drawing-room without my shoes. You remember the gentleman in 'The Spectator' [No. 576] who had a commission of Lunacy taken out against him for his extreme singularity, such as never wearing a wig, but a night-cap. Now, Sir, abstractedly, the night cap was best : but, relatively, the advantage was over-balanced by his making the boys son after him." ?
His lordship having frequently spoken in an abusive manner of Dr. Johnson in my company, I, on one occasion, during the lifetime of my illustrious friend, could not refrain from retaliation, and repeated to him this saying. He has since published I don't know how many pages in one of his curious books, attempting in much anger, but with pitiful effect, to per. suade mankind that my illustrious friend was not the great and good man which they esteemed and ever will esteem him to be.
* Few people had a more settled reverence for the world than Dr. Johnson, or were 'pie