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Inner Temple Lane, when all at once I heard a voice like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little reflection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and, eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the staircase in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple-gate, and, brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand, and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
He spoke Latin with wonderful fluency and elegance. When Père Boscovich (1) was in England, Johnson dined in company with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and at Dr. Douglas's, now Bishop of Salisbury. Upon both occasions that celebrated foreigner expressed his astonishment at Johnson's Latin conversation. (2) When at Paris, Johnson
(1) See antè, Vol. 111. p. 140. Boscovich was a jesuit, born at Ragusa in 1711, who first introduced the Newtonian philo sophy into Italy. He visited London in 1760, and was there elected into the Royal Society. He died in 1787.
(2) Boscovich had a ready current flow of that flimsy phraseology with which a priest may travel through Italy, Spain, and Germany. Johnson scorned what he called colloquial barbar. isms. It was his pride to speak his best. He went on, after a little practice, with as much facility as if it was his native tongue. One sentence I remember. Observing that Fontenelle at first opposed the Newtonian philosophy, and embraced it afterwards, his words were: Fontinellus, ni fallor, in extrema senectute, fuit transfuga ad castra Newtoniana. - MURPHY.
thus characterised Voltaire to Freron the journalist : “ Vir est acerrimi ingenii et paucarum literarum.”
LETTER 227. TO DR. JOHNSON.
“ Edinburgh, Dec. 5. 1775. « MY DEAR SIR, Mr. Alexander Maclean, the young laird of Col, being to set out to-morrow for London, I give him this letter to introduce him to your acquaintance. The kindness which you and I experienced from his brother, whose unfortunate death we sincerely lament, will make us always desirous to show attention to any branch of the family. Indeed, you have so much of the true Highland cordiality, that I am sure you would have thought me to blame if I had neglected to recommend to you this Hebridean prince, in whose island we were hospitably entertained. I ever am, with respectful attachment, my dear Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant,
66 JAMES BOSWELL.'
Mr. Maclean returned with the most agreeable accounts of the polite attention with which he was received by Dr. Johnson.
In the course of the year Dr. Burney informs me that “he very frequently met Dr. Johnson at Mr. Thrale's, at Streatham, where they had many long conversations, often sitting up as long as the fire and candles lasted, and much longer than the patience of the servants subsisted.” A few of Johnson's sayings, which that gentlemen recollects, shall here be inserted.
“ I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night, and then the nap takes me.”
“ The writer of an epitaph should not be considered
as saying nothing but what is strictly true. Allowance must be made for some degree of exaggerated praise. In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath.”
" There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there ; so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other.”
“ More is learned in public than in private schools, from emulation; there is the collision of mind with mind, or the radiation of many minds pointing to one centre. Though few boys make their own exercises, yet if a good exercise is given up, out of a great number of boys, it is made by somebody."
“ I hate by-roads in education. Education is as well known, and has long been as well known as ever it can be. Endeavouring to make children prematurely wise is useless labour. Suppose they have more knowledge at five or six years old than other children, what use can be made of it? It will be lost before it is wanted, and the waste of so much time and labour of the teacher can never be repaid. Too much is expected from precocity, and too little performed. Miss. (") was an instance of early cultivation, but in what did it terminate ? In marrying a little presbyterian parson, who keeps an infant boarding-school, so that all her employe ment now is,
• To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer. She tells the children, “This is a cat, and that is a dog, with four legs, and a tail; see there! you are much better than a cat or a dog, for you can speak.' If I had bestowed such an education on a daughter, and had discovered that she thought of marrying such a fellow, I would have sent her to the Congress.”
“ After having talked slightingly of music, he was
(1) Miss Letitia Aiken, who married Mr. Barbauld, and published “Easy Lessons for Children, &c. &c.” — C.
DR. BURNEY'S NOTES.
observed to listen very attentively while Miss Thrale played on the harpsichord ; and with eagerness he called to her, 'Why don't you dash away like Burney?' Dr. Burney upon this said to him, 'I believe, Sir, we shall make a musician of you at last.' Johnson with candid complacency replied, “Sir, I shall be glad to have a new sense given to me.
“He had come down one morning to the breakfastroom, and been a considerable time by himself before any body appeared. When on a subsequent day he was twitted by Mrs. Thrale for being very late, which he generally was, he defended himself by alluding to the extraordinary morning, when he had been too early. 'Madam, I do not like to come down to vacuity.'
“ Dr. Burney having remarked that Mr. Garrick was beginning to look old, he said, 'Why, Sir, you are not to wonder at that ; no man's face has had more wear and tear.'”
LETTER 228. TO MRS. MONTAGU. (1)
« Dec. 15. 1775. MADAM, Having, after my return from a little ramble to France, passed some time in the country, I did not hear, till I was told by Miss Reynolds, that you were in town; and when I did hear it, I heard likewise that you were ill. To have you detained among us by sickness is to enjoy your presence at too dear a rate. I suffer myself to be flattered with hope that only half the intelligence is now true, and that you are now so well as to be able to leave us, and so kind as not to be willing. I am, Madam, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
(1) Mrs. Montagu's recent kindness to Miss Williams was not lost on Johnson. His letters to that lady became more elaborately respectful, and his subsequent mention of her took, as we shall see, a high tone of panegyric. — C.
LETTER 229. TO MRS. MONTAGU.
« Dec. 17. 1775. “ MADAM, — All that the esteem and reverence of mankind can give you has been long in your possession, and the little that I can add to the voice of nations will not much exalt; of that little, however, you are, I hope, very certain. - I wonder, Madam, if you remember Col in the Hebrides ? The brother and heir of poor Col has just been to visit me, and I have engaged to dine with him on Thursday. I do not know his lodging, and cannot send him a message, and must therefore suspend the honour which you are pleased to offer to, Madam, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 230. TO MRS. MONTAGU.
“ Thursday, Dec. 21. 1775. Madam, — I know not when any letter has given me so much pleasure or vexation as that which I had yesterday the honour of receiving. That you, Madam, should wish for my company is surely a sufficient reason for being pleased ; – that I should delay twice, what I had so little right to expect even once, has so bad an appearance, that I can only hope to have it thought that I am ashamed. You have kindly allowed me to name a day. Will you be pleased, Madam, to accept of me any day after Tuesday ? Till I am favoured with your answer, or despair of so much condescension, I shall suffer no engagement to fasten itself upon me. I am, Madam, your most obliged and most humble servant,
“ SAM. Johnson.”.
Not having heard from him for a longer time than I supposed he would be silent, I wrote to him Dec. 18., not in good spirits :
"Sometimes I have been afraid that the cold which has gone over Europe this year like a sort of pestilence