« AnteriorContinua »
619. Love of Literature.
Dr. Johnson was of opinion that the happiest, as well as the most virtuous, persons were to be found amongst those who united with a business or profession a love of literature.
620. Marriage - Choice of a Wife.
He was constantly earnest with his friends, when they had thoughts of marriage, to look out for a religious wife. "A principle of honour or fear of the world," added he, " will many times keep a man in decent order; but when a woman loses her religion, she, in general, loses the only tie that will restrain her actions: Plautus, in his Amphytrio, makes Alcmena say beautifully to her husband,
"Non ego illam mihi dotem duco esse, quæ dos dicitur, Sed pudicitiam, et pudorem, et sedatum cupidinem,
Deûm metum, parentûm amorum, et cognatûm concordiam ; Tibi morigera, atque ut munifica sim bonis, prosim probis."
621." Tired of London."
He was once told that a friend of his, who had long lived in the metropolis, was about to quit it, to retire into the country, as being tired of London : Say rather, Sir," said Johnson," that he is tired of life."
622. Grammar, Writing, and Arithmetic.
Dr. Johnson was extremely adverse to the present foppish mode of educating children, so as to make them what foolish mothers call " elegant young men." He said to some lady who asked him what she should teach her son in early life, Madam, to read, to write, to count; grammar, writing, and arithmetic; three things which, if not taught in very early life, are seldom or ever
taught to any purpose, and without the knowledge of which no superstructure of learning or of knowledge can be built."
623. Hartley on Man.
Dr. Johnson one day observing a friend of his packing up the two volumes of "Observations on Man," written by this great and good man, to take into the country, said, " Sir, you do right to take Dr. Hartley with you." Dr. Priestley said of him, "that he had learned more from Hartley, than from any book he had ever read, except the Bible.”
624. Love of Change.
The Doctor used to say that he once knew a man of so vagabond a disposition, that he even wished, for the sake of change of place, to go to the West Indies. He set off on this expedition, and the Doctor saw him in town four months afterwards. Upon asking him, why he had not put his plan in execution, he replied, “I have returned these ten days from the West Indies. The sight of slavery was so horrid to me, that I could only stay two days in one of the islands." This man, who had once been a man of literature, and a private tutor to some young men of consequence, became so extremely torpid and careless in point of further information, that the Doctor, when he called upon him one day, and asked him to lend him a book, was told by him, that he had not one in the house.
An ancient had long ago said, "All secrecy is an evil." Johnson, in his strong manner, said, " Nothing ends more fatally than mysteriousness in trifles: indeed, it commonly ends in guilt; for those who begin by concealment of innocent things will soon have something to hide which they dare not bring to light."
Johnson used to say of the Duc de Rochefoucault, that he was one of the few gentlemen writers, of whom authors by profession had occasion to be afraid.
627. Investment of Money.
A friend of Johnson, an indolent man, succeeding to a moderate sum of money on the death of his father, asked the Doctor how he should lay it out. "Half on mortgage," said he, "and half in the funds: you, have then," continued he, "the two best securities for it that your country can afford. Take care, however, of the character of the person to whom you lend it on mortgage; see that he is a man of exactness and regularity, and lives within his income. The money in the funds you are sure of at every emergency; it is always at hand, and may be resorted to on every occasion."
628. Book and Author.
The opinion which Johnson one day expressed to Miss Cotterell, that "the best part of every author is generally to be found in his book," he has thus dilated, and illustrated by one of the most appropriate similes in the English language: "A transition from an
author's book to his conversation is too often like an entrance into a large city after a distant prospect: remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendour, grandeur, and magnificence; but when we have passed the gates we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke."
629. The Eucharist.
The learned and excellent Charles Cole having once mentioned to him a book lately published on the Sacrament, he replied, "Sir, I look upon the sacrament
as the palladium of our religion: I hope that no profane hands will venture to touch it."
630." Life of Lord Lyttelton.". Mr. Pepys. (1) I have within these few days received the following paragraph in a letter from a friend of mine in Ireland: "Johnson's Characters of some Poets breathe such inconsistency, such absurdity, and such want of taste and feeling, that it is the opinion of the Count of Narbonne (2), Sir N. Barry, and myself, that Mrs. Montagu should expose him in a short publication. He deserves it almost as much as Voltaire if not, Lytteltoni gratiâ, do it yourself." I met him some time ago at Streatham (3), and such a day did we pass in disputation upon the life of our dear friend Lord Lyttelton, as I trust it will never be my fate to pass again! The moment the cloth was removed he challenged me to come out (as he called it), and say what I had to object to his Life of Lord Lyttelton. This, you see, was a call which, however, disagreeable to myself and the rest of the company, I could not but obey, and so to it we went for three or four hours without ceasing. He once observed, that it was the duty of a biographer to state all the failings of a respectable character. I never
(1) From a Letter from Mr. Pepys to Mrs. Montagu, in the Montagu MSS., dated August 4. 1781. It shows how very violently, and on what slight grounds, the friends of Lord Lyttelton resisted Johnson's treatment of him. Now that personal feelings have subsided, the readers of the Life will wonder at Mr. Pepys's extravagant indignation; and we have already seen (antè, Vol. VII. p. 334., and Vol. VIII. p. 28.), that Johnson cared so little about the matter, that he was willing that the Life should have been written for him, by one of Lord Lyttelton's friends. C.
(2) Robert Jephson, Esq., author of " Braganza," and the "Count de Narbonne," -see antè, Vol. III. p. 90., where there seems reason to believe that Johnson and Mr. Jephson were no great friends. He died in 1803. — C.
(3) [See antè, Vol. IX. p. 49.]
longed to do any thing so much as to assume his own principle, and go into a detail which I could suppose his biographer might, in some future time, think necessary; but I contented myself with generals. He took great credit for not having mentioned the coarseness of Lord Lyttelton's manners. I told him, that if he would insert that (1) in the next edition, I would excuse him all the rest. We shook hands, however, at parting; which put me much in mind of the parting between Jaques and Orlando God be with you; let us meet as seldom as we can! Fare you well; I hope we shall be better strangers!' (2) We have not met again till last Tuesday, and then I must do him the justice to say, that he did all in his power to show me that he was sorry for the former attack. But what hurts me all this while is, not that Johnson should go unpunished, but that our dear and respectable friend should go down to posterity with that artful and studied contempt thrown upon his character which he so little deserved, and that a man who (notwithstanding the little foibles he might have) was in my opinion one of the most exalted patterns of virtue, liberality, and benevolence, not to mention the high rank which he held in literature, should be handed down to succeeding generations under the appellation of poor Lyttelton ! This, I must own, vexes and disquiets me whenever I
(1) On the principle
"Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes "
Pepys thought, justly enough, that a charge of coarseness of manners made by Johnson against Lord Lyttelton would be so ridiculous as to defeat all the rest of his censure. - - C.
(2) [" Now," says Dr. Johnson, the moment he was gone, "is Pepys gone home hating me, who love him better than I did before: he spoke in defence of his dead friend; but though I hope I spoke better who spoke against him,' yet all my eloquence will gain me nothing but an honest man for my enemy." Piozzi, see antè, Vol. IX. p. 49.]