Imatges de pÓgina
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I SHALL here insert a few of Johnson's sayings, without the formality of dates, as they have no reference to any particular time or place.

The more a man extends and varies his acquaintance the better.” This, however, was meant with a just restriction; for, he on another occasion said to me, “Sir, a man may be so much of every thing, that he is nothing of any thing."

Raising the wages of day-labourers is wrong; for it does not make them live better, but only makes them idler, and idleness is a very bad thing for human nature.”

“ It is a very good custom to keep a journal for a man's own use; he may

write upon a card a day all that is necessary to be written, after he has had experience of life. At first there is a great deal to be written, because there is a great deal of novelty. But when once a man has settled his opinions, there is seldom much to be set down."

“ There is nothing wonderful in the journal which we see Swift kept in London, for it contains slight topicks, and it might soon be written."

I praised the accuracy of an account book of a private person whom I mentioned. JOHNSON. “Keeping accounts, Sir, is of no use when a man is spending his own money, and has nobody to whom he is to account. You won't eat less beef to-day, because you have written down what it cost yesterday.” I mentioned a lady who thought as he did, so that her husband could not get her

Cor. et Ad.-Line 19: For “private person” read “lady.” Line 23: For a read “another." VOL. III.

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to keep an account of the expence of the family, as she thought it enough that she never exceeded the sum allowed her. JOHNSON.

Sir, it is fit she should keep an account, because her husband wishes it; but I do not see its use." I maintained that keeping an account has this advantage, that it satisfies a man that his money has not been lost or stolen, which he might sometimes be apt to imagine, were there no written state of his expence; and besides, a calculation of economy so as not to exceed one's income, cannot be made without a view of the different articles in figures, that one may see how to retrench in some particulars less necessary than others. This he did not attempt to answer.

Talking of an acquaintance of ours, whose narratives, which abounded in curious and interesting topicks, were unhappily found to be very fabulous ; I mentioned Lord Mansfield having said to me, “Suppose we believe one half of what he tells." JOHNSON. • Aye; but we don't know which half to believe. By his lying we lose not only our reverence for him, but all comfort in his conversation.” Boswell.“ May we not take it as amusing fiction?" Joh’son. "Sir, the misfortune is, that you will insensibly believe as much of it as you incline."

It is remarkable, that notwithstanding their congeniality in politicks, he never was acquainted with a late eminent noble judge, whom I have heard speak of him as a writer, with great respect.

Cor. et Ad.-Line 20 : After “ incline" read to believe."

II was at first inclined to believe that Mr. Croker was mistaken when he said Lord Mansfield was alluded to here, as Lord Mansfield was alive when Mr. Boswell wrote, and the word “late" did not apply. But I have received from Mr. Elwin the following note on the point, than which no more admirable illustration of legitimate Boswellian criticism could be found :—“My own opinion is, that Croker is right in supposing the late eminent noble judge' to be Lord Mansfield, and that the late' applies not to his death, but to his office of judge,' he having retired from the bench in 1788. If the person had been dead, Boswell would probably not have scrupled to print the name; and I know no other contemporary judge who was ‘eminent, noble,' and of the same politics with Johnson. Northington was hardly of Johnson's school of politics, nor had he ever that general eminence and social position which would have made it 'remarkable' that Johnson should never

have been acquainted with him.' It fits in, too, with one phase of Lord Mans. field's mind that Johnson, notwithstanding his eminence, should have 'entertained no exalted opinion of his intellectual character.' Malone relates the first interview that Reynolds had with Mansfield, and says he was grievously disappointed in finding this great lawyer so little at the same time,' (Prior's Life of Malone,' p. 382), and Malone himself says of him, His own conversation was never very brilliant, and he was always very fond of bad jokes and dull stories' (Prior, p. 348).

Cradock also says Literary Memoirs,' vol. iv. p. . 155), I have heard it remarked by his friends, indeed by Lord Sandwich, as a strange circumstance, that in company, though he admitted his occasional bon-mots, yet he scarce ever knew him to get clear through any long tale of humour. " True, my lord,” said a gentleman present, “ that has often struck me too, but he is generally hunting about for fine select

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Johnson, I know not upon what degree of investigation, entertained no exalted opinion of his Lordship's intellectual character. Talking of him to me one day, he said, “It is wonderful, Sir, with how little real superiority of mind men can make an eminent figure in publick life.” He expressed himself to the same purpose concerning another law Lord, who, it seems, once took a fancy to associate with the wits of London; but with so little success, that Foote said, “ What can he mean by coming among us ? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others." Trying him by the test of his colloquial powers, Johnson had found him very defective. He once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, “ This man now has been ten years about town, and has made nothing of it;" meaning as a companion. He said to me, “I never heard any thing from him in company that was at all striking; and depend upon it, Sir, it is when you come close to a man in conversation, that you discover what his real abilities are; to make a speech in a public assembly is a knack. Now I honour Thurlow, Sir; Thurlow is a fine fellow; he fairly puts his mind to yours.'

After repeating to him some of his pointed lively sayings, I said, “It is a pity, Sir, you don't always remember your own good things, that you may have a laugh when you will.” JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, it is better that I forget them, that I may be reminded of them and have a laugh brought to my recollection.”

When I recalled his having said as we sailed upon Lochlomond, “ That if he wore any thing fine, it should be very fine;" I observed that all his thoughts were upon a great scale. JOHNSON. “Depend

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Knowing as well as I do, what precision and elegance of oratory his Lordship can display, I cannot but suspect that his unfavourable appearance in a social circle, which drew such animadversions upon him, must be owing to a cold affectation of consequence, from being reserved and stiff. If it be so, and he might be an agreeable man if he would, we cannot be sorry that he misses his aim.

Cor. et Ad.—Line 23: After “laugh” read on their being."

phrases till he is sure to lose the material joke.”? • Depend upon it, sir,' says Johnson, it is when you come close to a man in conversation, that you discover what his real abilities are; ' and the pretentiousness and feebleness of Lord Mansfield's conversation must have been well known to him by the reports of Reynolds, Malone, and fifty people besides."

1 The hero of this well-known story is Wedderburne, Lord Loughborough.

2 “Now that Dr. Johnson is gone to a better world, I bow the intellectual knee to Lord Thurlow, who, with inflexible

wisdom, stops the tide of fashionable reform. It was Johnson who confirmed me in my opinion of that mighty sage of the law and the constitution. Before his promotion to the high office for which he seems to have been formed on purpose, the doctor said of him, 'I honour Thur. low, sir. Thurlow is a fine fellow. He fairly puts his mind to yours.' Long, long may he put his mind against those who would take even one stone out of that venerable fabric which is the wonder of the world.” Boswell had already published this anecdote in his “ Letter to the People of Scotland, 1785."

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upon it, Sir, every man will have as fine a thing as he can get; as a large diamond for his ring.” BOSWELL. “ Pardon me, Sir; a man of a narrow mind will not think of it, a slight trinket will satisfy him.

Nec sufferre queat majoris pondera gemmæ.' I told him I should send him some

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Essays " which I had written, which I hoped he would be so good as to read, and pick out the good ones. JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, send me only the good ones; don't make me pick them.”

On Thursday, April 10, I introduced to him, at his house in Boltcourt, the Honourable and Reverend William Stuart,? son of the

Cor. et Ad. After line 9, read—“I heard him once say, “Though the proverb Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia,does not always prove true, we may be certain of the converse of it, Nullum numen adest, si sit imprudentia.'

“ Once, when Mr. Seward was going to Bath, and asked his commands, he said, • Tell Dr. Harrington that I wish he would publish another volume of the “ Nuge antiquæ ; "a it is a very pretty book.' Mr. Seward seconded this wish, and recommended to Dr. Harrington to dedicate it to Johnson, and take for his motto, what Catullus says to Cornelius Nepos :

namque tu solebas

Meas esse aliquid putare NUGAS.' “ As a small proof of his kindliness and delicacy of feeling, the following circumstance may be mentioned : One evening when we were in the street together, and I told him I was going to sup at Mr. Beauclerk's, he said, “I'll go with you.' After having walked part of the way, seeming to recollect something, he suddenly stopped and said, 'I cannot go,—but I do not love Beauclerk the less." “On the frame of his portrait, Mr. Beauclerk had inscribed,

Ingenium ingens

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Inculto latet hoc sub corpore.' After Mr. Beauclerk's death, when it became Mr. Langton's property, he made the inscription be defaced. Johnson said complacently, "It was kind in you to take it off ;' and then after a short pause, added, and not unkind in him to put it on.''

"He said, “How few of his friends' houses would a man choose to be at, when he is sick !' He mentioned one or two. I recollect only Thrale's.

“ He observed, “There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inatten. tion is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, “His memory is going.'

- When I once talked to him of some of the sayings which every body repeats, but nobody knows where to find, such as, Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat; he told me that he was once offered ten guineas to point out from whence Semel insanivimus omnes was taken. He could not do it; but many years afterwards met with it by chance in Johannes Baptista Mantuanus.

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a “It has since appeared.”

1 Entitled “The Hypochondriac,” and published in the London Magazine.

3 Later, Primate of Ireland.
3 This appears to be one of the most

charming touches of character recorded
by Mr. Boswell.

4 Mr. Malone has the following note : -" The words occur, (as Mr. Bindley

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