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and the English law; but had never taken very great pains on the subject. His father, Lord Auchinleck, told him one day, that it would cost him more trouble to hide his ignorance in these professions, than to show his knowledge. This Mr. Boswell owned he had found to be true. Society was his idol; to that he sacrificed every thing his eye glistened, and his countenance brightened up, when he saw the human face divine; and that person must have been very fastidious indeed, who did not return him the same compliment when he came into a room. Of his Life of Johnson, who can say too much, or praise it too highly? What is Plutarch's biography to his? so minute, so appropriate, so dramatic. "How happy would the learned world have been," said the present acute and elegantly minded Bishop of Hereford (), "had Pericles, Plato, or Socrates possessed such a friend and companion as Mr. Boswell was to Doctor Johnson!"
676. Johnson's Agility.
A gentleman of Lichfield meeting the Doctor returning from a walk, inquired how far he had been? The Doctor replied, he had gone round Mr. Levet's field (the place where the scholars play) in search of a rail that he used to jump over when a boy, "and," says the Doctor in a transport of joy, "I have been so fortunate as to find it: I stood," said he, "gazing upon it some time with a degree of rapture, for it brought to my mind all my juvenile sports and pastimes, and at length I determined to try my skill and dexterity; I laid aside my hat and wig, pulled of my coat, and leapt over it twice." Thus the great Dr. Johnson, only three years before his death, was, without hat, wig, or coat, jumping over a rail that he had used to fly over when a school-boy.
Amongst those who were so intimate with Dr. Johnson (1) [The Rev. Dr. John Butler.]
as to have him occasionally an intimate in their families, it is a well known fact that he would frequently descend from the contemplation of subjects the most profound imaginable to the most childish playfulness. It was no uncommon thing to see him hop, step, and jump; he would often seat himself on the back of his chair, and more than once has been known to propose a race on some grassplat adapted to the purpose. He was very intimate and much attached to Mr. John Payne, once a bookseller in Paternoster Row, and afterwards Chief Accountant of the Bank. Mr. Payne was of a very diminutive appearance, and once when they were together on a visit with a friend at some distance from town, Johnson in a gaiety of humour proposed to run a race with Mr. Payne - the proposal was accepted; but, before they had proceeded more than half of the intended distance, Johnson caught his little adversary up in his arms, and without any ceremony placed him upon the arm of a tree which was near, and then continued running as if he had met with a hard match. He afterwards returned with much exultation to release his friend from the no very pleasant situation in which he had left him.
677. Boswell's Life of Johnson.
Cowper, the poet, speaking of Boswell's Life of Johnson, observed, that though it was so much abused, it presented the best portrait that had ever been given of the great English moralist; adding, that mankind would be gratified indeed, if some contemporary of Shakspeare and Milton had given the world such a history of those unrivalled poets.
678. Party Heat.
Doctor, afterwards Dean Maxwell, sitting in company with Johnson, they were talking of the violence of parties, and what unwarrantable and insolent lengths
mobs will sometimes run into. "Why, yes, Sir," says Johnson, "they'll do any thing, no matter how odd, or desperate, to gain their point; they'll catch hold of the red-hot end of a poker, sooner than not get possession of it."
679. Rights of Hospitality.
Dr. Johnson, in his tour through North Wales, passed two days at the seat of Colonel Middleton of Gwynagag. While he remained there, the gardener caught a hare amidst some potatoe plants, and brought it to his master, then engaged in conversation with the Doctor. An order was given to carry it to the cook. As soon as Johnson heard this sentence, he begged to have the animal placed in his arms; which was no sooner done, than approaching the window then half open, he restored the hare to her liberty, shouting after her to accelerate her speed. "What have you done?" cried the Colonel; "why, Doctor, you have robbed my table of a delicacy, perhaps deprived us of a dinner." "So much the better, Sir," replied the humane champion of a condemned hare; for if your table is to be supplied at the expense of the laws of hospitality, I envy not the appetite of him who eats it. This, Sir, is not a hare feræ naturæ, but one which had placed itself under your protection; and savage indeed must be that man who does not make his hearth an asylum for the confiding stranger."
680. Count de Holcke. (1)
In the year 1768, the king of Denmark visited England, and amongst the gentlemen of his suite was Count de Holcke, grand master of the wardrobe, a gentleman of considerable celebrity for polite learning and classical erudition; this gentleman had heard much of Dr. Johnson's literary fame, and was therefore anxious to see
(1) [This and the two following are from the Monthly Magazine.]
him. Through the interest of Dr. Brocklesby, he was enabled to pay Johnson a morning visit. They had a long conversation. Next day Count de Holcke dined with Lord Temple in Pall Mall, where he met Mr. William Gerard Hamilton (commonly called Singlespeech Hamilton), who, knowing of his visit to Johnson, asked him what he thought of the Doctor? Holcke replied, that of all the literary impostors and pedants he had ever met with he thought Johnson the greatest — "so shallow a fellow," he said, " he had never seen!" 681. A German Traveller's Interview with Johnson in 1768. (1)
I am just returned from a visit to Samuel Johnson, the colossus of English literature, who combines profound knowledge with wit, and humour with serious wisdom, and whose exterior announces nothing of these qualities; for in the proportions of his form are exactly those of the sturdy drayman. To this he alludes in his delineation of the Idler: "The diligence of an Idler is rapid and impetuous; as ponderous bodies, forced into velocity, move with violence proportionate to their weight."
His manners are boorish; and his eye cold as his raillery; never is it animated with a glance that betrays archness or acuteness; he constantly seems to be, and not seldom he really is, absent and distracted. — He had invited Colman and me by letter, and forgot it. We surprised him, in the strictest sense of the word, at the country seat of Mr. Thrale, whose lady, a genteel agreeable Welsh woman, by way of amusement reads and translates Greek authors. Here Johnson lives and reigns (for he is fond of acting the dominator) as if he were in the midst of his own family. He received us in a friendly manner, though a certain air of solemness and pomposity never left him, which is interwoven with
(1) [See antè, Vol. IX. p. 17.]
his manners as well as with his style. In conversation he rounds his periods, and speaks with a tone almost theatrical; but whatever he says becomes interesting by a certain peculiar character with which it is stamped. We spoke of the English language; and I remarked "that it passed through its different epochs quicker than other languages: there is a greater difference," said I, "between your present writers and the cele brated club of authors in the reign of Queen Ann than between the French of the present and the last century. They make incursions into foreign ground, and lavishly squander the easily acquired plunder; for they follow not the counsel of Swift, to adopt, indeed, new words, but never after to reject them.” "We conquer," interrupted me one of the guests, "new words in a fit of enthusiasm, and give them back again in cold blood, as we do our conquests on the making of peace." "But are you not," asked I, "thus losers with regard to posterity? For your writings will be scarcely intelligible to the third succeeding generation." "New words," replied Johnson, "are well-earned riches. When a nation enlarges its stock of knowledge and acquires new ideas, it must necessarily have a suitable vesture for them. Foreign idioms, on the contrary, have been decried as dangerous; and the critics daily object to me my Latinisms, which, they say, alter the character of our language: but it is seriously my opinion, that every language must be servilely formed after the model of some one of the ancient, if we wish to give durability to our works." Do you not think that there is some truth in this sophistry? A dead language, no longer subject to change, may well serve as a fit standard for a living one. It is an old sterling weight, according to which the value of the current coin is estimated." The greatest confusion in languages," continued I, addressing myself to Johnson, "is caused by a kind of original geniuses, who invent their own Sanscrit, that they may