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up in haste should be strengthened and perfected at leisure. A few passages from No. 169. will explain his sentiments on this subject:
"Men have sometimes appeared, of such transcendent abili ties, that their slightest and most cursory performances excel all that labour and study can enable meaner intellects to compose; as there are regions of which the spontaneous products cannot be equalled in other soils by care and culture. But it is no less dangerous for any man to place himself in this rank of understanding, and fancy that he is born to be illustrious without labour, than to omit the cares of husbandry, and expect from his ground the blossoms of Arabia."—" Among the writers of antiquity I remember none except Statius, who ventures to mention the speedy production of his writings, either as an extenuation of his faults, or as a proof of his facility. Nor did Statius, when he considered himself as a candidate for lasting reputation, think a closer attention unnecessary; but amidst all his pride and indigence, the two great hasteners of modern poems, employed twelve years upon the Thebaid, and thinks his claim to renown proportionate to his labour."-" To him whose eagerness of praise hurries his productions soon into the light, many imperfections are unavoidable, even where the mind furnishes the materials, as well as regulates their disposition, and nothing depends upon search or information. Delay opens new veins of thought, the subject dismissed for a time appears with a new train of dependent images, the accidents of reading or conversation supply new ornaments or allusions, or mere intermission of the fatigue of thinking enables the mind to collect new force and make new excursions."
With such sentiments it must appear at least probable, that our author would, in his own case, endeavour to repair the mischiefs of haste or negligence; but as these were not very obvious to his friends, they made no inquiry after them, nor entertained any suspicion of the labour he endured to render his writings more worthy of their praise; and when his contemporaries had departed, he might not think it necessary to tell a new generation that he had not reached perfection at once.
On one occasion Mr. Boswell came so near the question, that if Dr. Johnson had thought it worth entering upon, he had a very fair opportunity. Being asked by a lady, whether he thought he could make his Rambler better, he answered that he certainly could. BOSWELL. "I'll lay you a bet, Sir, you cannot." JOHNSON.
"But I will, Sir, if I choose. I shall make the best of them you shall pick out, better." BOSWELL. "But you may add to them; I will not allow of that." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, there are three ways of making them better, putting out, adding, or correcting.” (1) 655. Donne v. Pope. (2)
The late Mr. Crauford, of Hyde Park Corner, being engaged to dinner, where Dr. Johnson was to be, resolved to pay his court to him; and, having heard that he preferred Donne's Satires to Pope's version of them, said, "Do you know, Dr. Johnson, that I like Dr. Donne's original Satires better than Pope's." Johnson said, "Well, Sir, I can't help that.'
656. Music. - King David.
Miss Johnson, one of Sir Joshua's nieces (afterwards Mrs. Deane), was dining one day at her uncle's with Dr. Johnson and a large party: the conversation happening to turn on music, Johnson spoke very contemptuously of that art, and added, "that no man of talent, or whose mind was capable of better things, ever would or could devote his time and attention to so idle and frivolous a pursuit." The young lady, who was very fond of music, whispered her next neighbour, "I wonder what Dr. Johnson thinks of King David." Johnson
(1) In corroboration of his assertions, Mr. Chalmers has transcribed No. 180. of the original folio Rambler, marking the variations by italics.
(2) This and the six following scraps were communicated to Mr. Croker.
overheard her, and, with great good humour and complacency, said," Madam, I thank you; I stand rebuked before you, and promise that, on one subject at least, you shall never hear me talk nonsense again."
657. Pleasure of Hunting.
The honours of the University of Cambridge were once performed to Dr. Johnson, by Dr. Watson, afterwards Bishop of Llandaff, and then Professor of Chemistry, &c. (1) After having spent the morning in seeing all that was worthy of notice, the sage dined at his conductor's table, which was surrounded by various persons, all anxious to see so remarkable a character, but the moment was not favourable; he had been wearied by his previous exertions, and would not talk. After the party had dispersed, he said, "I was tired, and would not take the trouble, or I could have set them right upon several subjects, Sir; for instance, the gentleman who said he could not imagine how any pleasure could be derived from hunting, the reason is, because man feels his own vacuity less in action than when at rest."
658. Johnson in a Stage Coach.
Mr. Williams, the rector of Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, mentioned having once, when a young man, performed a stage-coach journey with Dr. Johnson, who took his place in the vehicle, provided with a little book, which his companion soon discovered to be Lucian: he occasionally threw it aside, if struck by any remark made by his fellow-travellers, and poured forth his knowledge and eloquence in a full stream, to the delight and astonishment of his auditors. Accidentally, the first subject which attracted him was the digestive
(1) Dr. Watson was a fellow of Trinity. See antè, Vol. II. p. 284. and p. 330., an account of this visit to Cambridge, which occurred in Feb. 1765.-C.
faculties of dogs, from whence he branched off as to the powers of digestion in various species of animals, discovering such stores of information, that this particular point might have been supposed to have formed his especial study, and so it was with every other subject started. The strength of his memory was not less astonishing than his eloquence; he quoted from various authors, either in support of his own argument or to confute those of his companions, as readily, and apparently as accurately, as if the works had been in his hands. The coach halted, as usual, for dinner, which seemed to be a deeply interesting business to Johnson, who vehemently attacked a dish of stewed carp, using his fingers only in feeding himself. (1)
659." Pilgrim's Progress."
Bishop Percy was at one time on a very intimate footing with Dr. Johnson, and the Doctor one day took Percy's little daughter (2) upon his knee, and asked her what she thought of "Pilgrim's Progress?" The child answered, that she had not read it. "No!" replied the Doctor; "then I would not give one farthing for you;" and he set her down and took no further notice of her.
660. Dinner at University.
My venerable friend, Dr. Fisher, of the Charterhouse, now in his eighty-fifth year, informs me (says Mr. Croker) that he was one of the party who dined with Dr. Johnson at University College, Oxford, in March, 1776. (3) There were present, he says, Dr. Wetherell, Johnson, Boswell, Coulson, Scott, Gwynn,
(1) Mr. Boswell, antè, Vol. VIII. p. 284., mentions another instance, in which Dr. Johnson surprised his accidental companions in a stage-coach with the force of his conversation and the goodness of his appetite.-C.
(2) Afterwards Mrs. Isted, of Ecton, Northamptonshire. C.
(3) [See antè, Vol. VI. p. 75.]
Dr. Chandler the traveller, and Fisher, then a young Fellow of the College. He recollects one passage of the conversation at dinner :-Boswell quoted "Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat," and asked where it was. After a pause Dr. Chandler said in Horace,—another pause; then Fisher remarked, that he knew no metre in Horace to which the words could be reduced; upon which Johnson said dictatorially "The young man is right." Dr. Fisher recollects another conversation during this visit to Oxford, when there was a Mr. Mortimer, a shallow, vulgar man, who had no sense of Johnson's superiority, and talked a great deal of flippant nonsense. At last he said, that "metaphysics were all stuff-nothing but vague words." "Sir," said Johnson, "do you know the meaning of the word metaphysics ?" "To be sure," said the other. "Then, Sir, you must know that two and two make four, is a metaphysical proposition."-" I deny it," rejoined Mortimer, "'t is an arithmetical one; I deny it utterly." "Why, then Sir," said Johnson, "if you deny that we arrive at that conclusion by a metaphysical process, I can only say, that plus in una horâ unus asinus negabit, quam centum philosophi in centum annis probaverint."
661. Langton on Johnson's Death.
The following letter was written with an agitated hand, from the very chamber of death, by the amiable Bennet Langton, and obviously interrupted by his feelings. It is not addressed, but Mr. Langton's family believe it was intended for Mr. Boswell:
"MY DEAR SIR,- After many conflicting hopes and fears respecting the event of this heavy return of illness which has assailed our honoured friend, Dr. Johnson, since his arrival from Lichfield, about four days ago the appearances grew more and more awful, and this afternoon at eight o'clock, when I arrived at his house to see how he should be going on, I was acquainted at the door, that about three quarters of an hour