Slike strani
PDF
ePub

August 15.) Treating your adversary with respect.

29

When we got home, Dr. Johnson desired to see my books. He took down Ogden's Sermons on Prayer', on which I set a very high value, having been much edified by them, and he retired with them to his room, He did not stay long, but soon joined us in the drawing room. I presented to him Mr. Robert Arbuthnot, a relation of the celebrated Dr. Arbuthnot?, and a man of literature and taste. To him we were obliged for a previous recommendation, which secured us a very agreeable reception at St. Andrews, and which Dr. Johnson, in his Journey, ascribes to 'some invisible friend 3.'

Of Dr. Beattie, Mr. Johnson said, 'Sir, he has written like a man conscious of the truth, and feeling his own strength ‘. Treating your adversary with respect is giving him an advantage to which he is not entitled " The greatest part of men cannot judge of reasoning, and are impressed by character ; so that, if you allow your adversary a respectable character, they will think, that though you differ from him, you may be in the wrong. Sir, treating your adversary with respect, is striking soft in a battle. And as to Hume,-a man who has so much conceit as to tell all mankind that they have been bubbled for ages, and he is the wise man who sees better than they,—a man who has so little scrupulosity as to venture to oppose those principles which have been thought necessary to human happiness,-is he to be surprized if another man comes and laughs at

'Ogden was Woodwardian Professor at Cambridge. The sermons were published in 1770. Boswell mentions them so often that in Rowlandson's caricatures of the tour he is commonly represented as having them in his hand or pocket. See ante, iii. 248.

: 'Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign, Johnson observed, “ I think Dr. Arbuthnot the first man among them.”) Ante, i. 425.

'We found that by the interposition of some invisible friend lodgings had been provided for us at the house of one of the professors, whose easy civility quickly made

us forget that we were strangers.' Works, ix. 3.

* He is referring to Beattie's Essay on Truth. See post, Oct. 1, and ante, ii. 201.

s See ante, ii. 443, where Johnson, again speaking of Hume, and perhaps of Gibbon, says :-'When a man voluntarily engages in an important controversy, he is to do all he can to lessen his antagonist, because authority from personal respect has much weight with most people, and often more than reasoning.

• Johnson, in his Dictionary, calls bubble 'a cant (slang) word.'

30

Boswell's intimacy with Hume.

(August 15.

him? If he is the great man he thinks himself, all this cannot hurt him : it is like throwing peas against a rock. He added something much too rough, both as to Mr. Hume's head and 'heart, which I suppress. Violence is, in my opinion, not suitable to the Christian cause. Besides, I always lived on good terms with Mr. Hume, though I have frankly told him, I was not clear that it was right in me to keep company with him. 'But, (said I) how much better are you than your books !' He was cheerful, obliging, and instructive; he was charitable to the poor; and many an agreeable hour have I passed with him': I have preserved some entertaining and interesting memoirs of him, particularly when he knew himself to be dying, which I may some time or other communicate to the world?. I shali not, however, extol him so very highly as Dr. Adam Smith does, who says, in a letter to Mr. Strahan the Printer (not a confidential letter to his friend, but a letter which is published 3 August 15.] Adam Smith's letter about Hume.

i Boswell wrote to Temple in with Boswell's other papers. Ante, 1768 : David [Hume] is really iii. 301, note 1. amiable : I always regret to him 3 This letter, though shattered by his unlucky principles, and he smiles the sharp shot of Dr. Horne of at my faith ; but I have a hope Oxford's wit, in the character of which he has not, or pretends not One of the People called Christians, to have. So who has the best of is still prefixed to Mr. Hume's exit, my reverend friend?' Letters of cellent History of England, like a Boswell, p. 151. Dr. A. Carlyle poor invalid on the piquet guard, or (Auto. pp. 274-5) says :-'Mr. Hume like a list of quack medicines sold gave both elegant dinners and sup- by the same bookseller, by whom pers, and the best claret, and, which a work of whatever nature is pubwas best of all, he furnished the lished; for it has no connection with entertainment with the most in- his History, let it have what it may structive and pleasing conversation, with what are called his Philosofor he assembled whosoever were phical Works. A worthy friend of most knowing and agreeable among mine in London was lately consulted either the laity or clergy. For by a lady of quality, of most distininnocent mirth and agreeable raillery guished merit, what was the best I never knew his match . . . . He History of England for her son to took much to the company of the read. My friend recommended younger clergy, not from a wish to Hume's. But, upon recollecting bring them over to his opinions, for that its usher was a superlative he never attempted to overturn any panegyrick on one, who endea. man's principles, but they best voured to sap the credit of our holy understood his notions, and could religion, he revoked his furnish him with literary conversa- mendation. I am really sorry for tion.'

this ostentatious alliance ; because ? No doubt they were destroyed I admire The Theory of Moral

recom

31

with all formality :) ‘Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his life time and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit. Let Dr. Smith consider: Was not Mr. Hume blest with good health, good spirits, good friends, a competent and increasing

And had he not also a perpetual feast of fame"? But, as a learned friend has observed to me, “What trials did he undergo to prove the perfection of his virtue? Did he ever experience any great instance of adversity ?' – When I read this sentence delivered by my old Professor of Moral Philosophy, I could not help exclaiming with the

Ib. p. 4.

Sentiments, and value the greatest man Understanding was entirely part of An Inquiry into the Nature overlooked and neglected.' and Causes of the Wealth of Na- His Enquiry concerning the Princitions. Why should such a writer ples of Morals 'came unnoticed and be so forgetful of human comfort, unobserved into the world.' Ib. p. 5. as to give any countenance to that The first volume of his History of dreary infidelity which would ‘make England certainly met with nuus poor indeed ?' ['makes me poor merous assailants; but after the. indeed.' Othello, act iii. sc. 3]. BOS- first ebullitions of their fury were WELL. Dr. Horne's book is en- over, what was still more morti. titled, A Letter to Adam Smith, fying, the book seemed to sink LL.D., On the Life, Death, and into oblivion. Mr. Millar told me,' Philosophy of his Friend David he continues, that in a twelvemonth Hume, Esq. By one of the People he sold only forty-five copies of called Christians. Its chief wit is it. . . I was I confess, discouraged, in the Preface. The bookseller and had not the war at that time mentioned in this note was perhaps been breaking out between France Francis Newbery, who succeeded and England, I had certainly rehis father, Goldsmith's publisher, as tired to some provincial town of the a dealer in quack medicines and former kingdom, have changed my books. They dealt in over thirty name, and never more have returned different nostrums, and published to my native country. Ib. p. 6. books of every nature. Of the Only one of his works, his Political father Johnson said :—Newbery is Discourses, was successful on the an extraordinary man, for I know first publication.' Ib. p. 5. By the not whether he has read or written time he was turned fifty, however, most books. He is the original his books were selling very well, and of 'Jack Whirler' in The Idler, he had become ‘not only indepenNo. 19. A Bookseller of the Last dent but opulent.' Ib. p. 8. A few Century, pp. 22, 73.

weeks before he died he wrote :* Hume says that his first work, 'I see many symptoms of my litehis Treatise of Human Nature, 'fell rary reputation's breaking out at dead-born from the press.' Auto. last with additional lustre.' Ib. P. 3. His Enquiry concerning Hu

p. 1o.

Psalmist,

6

[ocr errors]

32

Dr. Robertson.

(August 15.

Psalmist, Surely I have now more understanding than my teachers'!'

While we were talking, there came a note to me from Dr. William Robertson.

· DEAR SIR,

'I have been expecting every day to hear from you, of Dr. Johnson's arrival. Pray, what do you know about his motions? I long to take him by the hand. I write this from the college, where I have only this scrap of paper. yours,

W. R. Sunday.'

paper. Ever

6

It pleased me to find Dr. Robertson thus eager to meet Dr. Johnson. I was glad I could answer, that he was come: and I begged Dr. Robertson might be with us as soon as he could.

Sir William Forbes, Mr. Scott, Mr. Arbuthnot, and another gentleman dined with us. 'Come, Dr. Johnson, (said I) it is commonly thought that our veal in Scotland is not good. But here is some which I believe you will like.' There was no catching him. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, what is commonly thought, I should take to be true. Your veal may be good; but that will only be an exception to the general opinion; not a proof against it.'

Dr. Robertson, according to the custom of Edinburgh at that time, dined in the interval between the forenoon and afternoon service, which was then later than now; so we had not the pleasure of his company till dinner was over, when he came and drank wine with us. And then began some animated dialogue, of which here follows a pretty full note.

We talked of Mr. Burke. Dr. Johnson said, he had great variety of knowledge, store of imagery, copiousness of language. ROBERTSON. He has wit too. JOHNSON. No, Sir; he never succeeds there. 'Tis low; 'tis conceit. I used to say, Burke never once made a good joke 3. What I most envy Burke for,

* Psalms, cxix. 99.

. We learn, post, Oct. 29, that Robertson was cautious in his talk, though we see here that he had much more courage than the professors of Aberdeen or Glasgow.

3 This was one of the points upon which Dr. Johnson was strangely heterodox. For, surely, Mr. Burke, with his other remarkable qualities, is also distinguished for his wit, and for wit of all kinds too : not merely

August 15.]

Boswell's defence of Burke's wit.

33

is his being constantly the same. He is never what we call hum-drum ; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to hat power of language which Pope every man whatever is more or less chooses to denominate wit :

a cook, in seasoning what he him(True wit is Nature to advantage

self eats. Your definition is good, drest;

said Mr. Burke, and I now see the What oft was thought, but ne'er so full force of the common proverb, well exprest.)

“There is reason in roasting of [Pope's Essay on Criticism, ii. 297.] eggs. When Mr. Wilkes, in his but surprising allusions, brilliant sal- days of tumultuous opposition, was lies of vivacity, and pleasant con- borne upon the shoulders of the ceits. His speeches in parliament mob, Mr. Burke (as Mr. Wilkes told are strewed with them. Take, for me himself, with classical admirainstance, the variety which he has tion,) applied to him what Horace given in his wide range, yet exact says of Pindar, detail, when exhibiting his Reform

. . numerisque fertur Bill. And his conversation abounds LEGE solutis. [Odes, iv. 2. 11.] in wit. Let me put down a speci- Sir Joshua Reynolds, who agrees men. I told him, I had seen, at a with me entirely as to Mr. Burke's Blue stocking assembly, a number fertility of wit, said, that this was of ladies sitting round a worthy and dignifying a pun. He also obtall friend of ours, listening to his served, that he has often heard literature. “Ay, (said he) like maids Burke say, in the course of an round a May-pole.' I told him, I evening, ten good things, each of had found out a perfect definition which would have served a noted of human nature, as distinguished wit (whom he named) to live upon from the animal. An ancient phi- for a twelvemonth. losopher said, Man was 'a two- I find, since the former edition, legged animal without feathers,' that some persons have objected to upon which his rival Sage had a the instances which I have given of Cock plucked bare, and set him Mr. Burke's wit, as not doing justice down in the school before all the to my very ingenious friend; the disciples, as a ‘Philosophick Man.' specimens produced having, it is Dr. Franklin said, Man was 'a tool- alleged, more of conceit than real making animal, which is very well; wit, and being merely sportive salfor no animal but man makes a lies of the moment, not justifying thing, by means of which he can the encomium which, they think with make another thing. But this ap- me, he undoubtedly merits. I was plies to very few of the species. well aware, how hazardous it was My definition of Man is, 'a Cooking to exhibit particular instances of animal. The beasts have memory, wit, which is of so airy and spiritual judgment, and all the faculties and a nature as often to elude the hand passions of our mind in a certain that attempts to grasp it. The exdegree ; but no beast is a cook. cellence and efficacy of a bon mol The trick of the monkey using the depend frequently so much on the cat's paw to roast a chestnut, is only occasion on which it is spoken, on a piece of shrewd malice in that the particular manner of the speaker, turpissima bestia, which humbles us on the person to whom it is applied, so sadly by its similarity to us. Man the previous introduction, and a alone can dress a good dish ; and thousand minute particulars which VOL. V.

D

leave

« PrejšnjaNaprej »