Imatges de pÓgina

478. Introductions and Conclusions.

I have heard Sir Joshua repeat a speech which the Doctor made about the time of his writing the "Idler," and in which he gave himself credit in two particulars:

"There are two things," said he, "which I am confident I can do very well: one is, an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclusion, showing, from various causes, why the execution has not been equal to what the author promised to himself and to the public.”

479. Tea.

Johnson's extraordinary, or rather extravagant, fondness for tea did not fail to excite notice wherever he went; and it is related, though not by Boswell, that whilst on his Scottish tour, and spending some time at Dunvegan, the dowager Lady Macleod having repeatedly helped him, until she had poured out sixteen cups, she then asked him, if a small basin would not save him trouble and be more agreeable?" I wonder, Madam," answered he roughly, "why all the ladies ask me such questions. It is to save yourselves trouble, Madam, and not me." The lady was silent, and resumed her task.

480. "A completely wicked Man."

Dr. Johnson being in company with Sir Joshua and his sister, Miss Reynolds, and the conversation turning on morality, Sir Joshua said, he did not think there was in the world any man completely wicked. Johnson answered, "I do not know what you mean by completely wicked.” "I mean," returned Sir Joshua, tr a man lost to all sense of shame." Dr. Johnson replied, that" to be completely wicked, a man must be also lost to all sense of conscience." Sir Joshua said,

he thought it was exactly the same; he could see no difference. "What!" said Johnson, 66 can you see no difference? I am ashamed to hear you, or any body, utter such nonsense, when the one relates to men only, the other to God!" Miss Reynolds then observed, that when shame was lost, conscience was nearly gone. Johnson agreed, that her conclusion was very just.

481. Richardson on Painting.

Dr. Johnson knew nothing of the art of painting, either in theory or practice; which is one proof that he I could not be the author of Sir Joshua's "Discourses:" indeed, his imperfect sight was some excuse for his total ignorance in that department of study. One day, being at dinner at Sir Joshua's, in company with many painters, in the course of conversation Richardson's "Treatise on Painting" happened to be mentioned : "Ah!" said Johnson, "I remember, when I was at college, I by chance found that book on my stairs: I took it up with me to my chamber, and read it through, and truly I did not think it possible to say so much upon the art." Sir Joshua, who could not hear distinctly, desired of one of the company to be informed what Johnson had said; and it being repeated to him so loud that Johnson heard it, the Doctor seemed hurt, and added, "But I did not wish, Sir, that Sir Joshua should have been told what I then said." The latter speech of Johnson denotes a delicacy in him, and an unwillingness to offend; and it evinces a part of his character, which he has not had the credit of having ever possessed.

482. "Venice Preserved."

One day, Johnson and Goldsmith meeting at Sir Joshua Reynolds's table, the conversation turned on the merits of Otway's "Venice Preserved," which Goldsmith highly extolled; asserting, that of all tragedies

it was the one nearest in excellence to Shakspeare : when Johnson, in his peremptory manner, contradicted him, and pronounced that there were not forty good lines to be found in the whole play; adding, " Pooh! what stuff are these lines!

"What feminine tales hast thou been listening to,
Of unair'd sheets, catarrh, and toothach, got
By thin-soled shoes?"


"True!" replied Goldsmith; to be sure, that is very like Shakspeare."

483. Criticisms on Goldsmith.

Soon after Goldsmith's death, some people dining with Sir Joshua were commenting rather freely on some part of his works, which, in their opinion, neither discovered talent nor originality. To this Dr. Johnson listened, in his usual growling manner, for some time; when, at length, his patience being exhausted, he rose with great dignity, looked them full in the face, and exclaimed, "If nobody were suffered to abuse poor Goldy but those who could write as well, he would have few censors.

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484. Portrait of Johnson reading.

In 1775, Sir Joshua painted that portrait of his friend Johnson, which represents him as reading and near-sighted. This was very displeasing to the Doctor, who, when he saw it, reproved Sir Joshua for painting him in that manner and attitude; saying, "It is not friendly to hand down to posterity the imperfections of any man." But, on the contrary, Sir Joshua esteemed. it as a circumstance in nature to be remarked, as characterising the person represented, and therefore as giving additional value to the portrait.

485. Johnson's Pride.

Of Johnson's pride, I have heard Sir Joshua himself observe, that if any man drew him into a state of obli

gation without his own consent, that man was the first he would affront, by way of clearing off the account.

486. Trip to Plymouth. - Clouted Cream and Cider.

Reynolds's trip to Plymouth, accompanied by Dr. Johnson, took place in 1762: when, during a visit to a neighbouring gentleman, Johnson's irregularity of conduct produced considerable alarm in the mind of their host; who, in order to gratify his guests, had placed before them every delicacy which the house afforded. On this occasion the Doctor, who seldom showed much discretion in his feeding, devoured so large a quantity of new honey and of clouted cream, which is peculiar to Devonshire, besides drinking large potations of new cider, that the entertainer found himself much embarrassed between his anxious regard for the Doctor's health, and his fear of breaking through the rules of politeness, by giving him a hint on the subject. The strength of Johnson's constitution, however, saved him from any unpleasant consequences which might have been expected.

487. Farmer on Shakspeare.

Dr. Farmer, of Cambridge, had written a most excellent and convincing pamphlet, to prove that Shakspeare knew little or nothing of the ancients but by translations. Being in company with Dr. Johnson, he received from him the following compliment upon the work: "Dr. Farmer, you have done that which never was done before; that is, you have completely finished a controversy beyond all further doubt." "I thank you," answered Dr. Farmer, "for your flattering opinion of my work, but still think there are some critics who will adhere to their old opinions, - certain persons that I could name." "Ah!" said Johnson, "that may be true; for the limbs will quiver and move after the soul is gone."

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488. Johnson and Peter Pindar.

Dr. Walcot, in a letter addressed to me, says: Happening to be in company with Dr. Johnson, and observing to him, that his portrait by Reynolds was not sufficiently dignified-prepared with a flat contradiction, he replied, in a kind of bull-dog growl, No, Sir! the pencil of Reynolds never wanted dignity nor the graces.""


489. "Peter Paul Rubens."

James MacArdell, the mezzotinto engraver, having taken a very good print from the portrait of Rubens, came with it one morning to Sir Joshua Reynolds, to inquire if he could inform him particularly of the many titles to which Rubens had a right, in order to inscribe them properly under his print; saying, he believed that Rubens had been knighted by the kings of France, Spain, and England; was secretary of state in Flanders, and to the privy seal in Spain; and had been employed in a ministerial capacity from the court of Madrid to the court of London, to negotiate a treaty of peace between the two crowns; and that he was also a magistrate of Antwerp, &c. Dr. Johnson, happening to be in the room with Sir Joshua at the time, and understanding MacArdell's inquiry, interfered rather abruptly, saying, "Pooh! pooh! put his name alone under the print, Peter Paul Rubens :' that is full sufficient, and more than all the rest." This advice of the Doctor was accordingly followed.

490. Compliments.

At the time that Miss Linley was in the highest esteem as a public singer, Dr. Johnson came in the evening to drink tea with Miss Reynolds; and when he entered the room, she said to him, See, Dr. Johnson, what a preference I give to your company; for I had an offer of a place in a box at the Oratorio, to hear Miss

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