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Johnson's love of anecdotes.
There was a good deal of company in the room.
When they were gone, I said to this lady, “What foolish talking have we had !” “Yes, (said she,) but while they talked, you said nothing.” I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does anything that is innocent, than he who does nothing. Besides, I love anecdotes'. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get.'
Dr. Robertson said, the notions of Eupham Macallan, a fanatick woman, of whom Lord Hailes gives a sketch, were still prevalent among some of the Presbyterians; and therefore it was right in Lord Hailes, a man of known piety, to undeceive them.
We walked out, that Dr. Johnson might see some of the things which we have to shew at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliament House, where the Parliament of Scotland sat, and
* See ante, ii. 11.
through. Dalrymple points out that · Euphan M'Cullan (not Eupham it was a belief in these answers Macallan) is mentioned in Dalrym- from the Lord' that led John Balfour ple's (Lord Hailes] Remarks on the and his comrades to murder ArchHistory of Scotland, p. 254. She bishop Sharp. maintained that she seldom ever 3 R. Chambers, in his Traditions, prayed but she got a positive answer.' speaking of the time of Johnson's The minister of her parish was ill. visit, says (i. 21) on the authority of 'She prayed, and got an answer that 'an ancient native of Edinburgh that for a year's time he should be spared; people all knew each other by sight. and after the year's end he fell sick The appearance of a new face upon again.' 'I went,' said she, 'to pray the streets was at once remarked, yet again for his life ; but the Lord and numbers busied themselves in left me not an mouse's likeness (a finding out who and what the stranger proverbial expression, meaning to was.' reprove with such severity that the It was on this visit to the parliaperson reproved shrinks and becomes ment-house, that Mr. Henry Erskine abashed), and said, 'Beast that thou (brother of Lord Erskine), after being art! shall I keep my servant in pain presented to Dr. Johnson by Mr. for thy sake?' And when I said, Boswell, and having made his bow, ‘Lord, what then shall I do?' He slipped a shilling into Boswell's hand, answered me, 'He was but a reed whispering that it was for the sight that I spoke through, and I will of his bear. WALTER SCOTT. provide another reed to speak
Setting oneself 'doggedly' to write.
where the Ordinary Lords of Session hold their courts; and to the New Session-House adjoining to it, where our Court of Fifteen (the fourteen Ordinaries, with the Lord President at their hcad,) sit as a court of Review. We went to the Advocates' Library', of which Dr. Johnson took a cursory view, and then to what is called the Laigha (or under) Parliament-House, where the records of Scotland, which has an universal security by register, are deposited, till the great Register Office be finished. I was pleased to behold Dr. Samuel Johnson rolling about in this old magazine of antiquities. There was, by this time, a pretty numerous circle of us attending upon him. Somebody talked of happy moments for composition; and how a man can write at one time, and not at another. Nay, (said Dr. Johnson) a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly3 to it.'
I here began to indulge old Scottisha sentiments, and to express a warm regret, that, by our Union with England, we were no more ;--our independent kingdom was lost". JOHNSON. "Sir, never talk of your independency, who could let your Queen semain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to death, without even a pretence of justice, without your ever attempting to rescue her; and such a Queen too; as every man of any gallantry of spirit would have sacrificed his life for6.' Worthy Mr. JAMES KERR, Keeper of the Records. “Half our nation was bribed by English money. JOHNSON. 'Sir, that is no defence: that makes you worse. Good Mr. Brown, Keeper of the Advocates' Library. “We had better say nothing about
This is one of the Libraries lution, similar to that of a sullen entitled to a copy of every new work man.' BOSWELL. Southey wrote to published in the United Kingdom. Scott :- Give me more lays, and Hume held the office of librarian at correct them at leisure for after a salary of £40 a year from 1752 to editions-not laboriously, but when 1757. J. H. Burton's Hume, i. 367, the amendment comes naturally and 373.
unsought for. It never does to sit The Edinburgh oyster-cellars down doggedly to correct.' Southey's were called laigh shops. Chambers's Life, iii. 126. See ante, i. 332, for the Truditions, ii. 268.
influence of seasons on composition. 3 This word is commonly used to Boswell, post, Nov. 1, writes of signify sullenly, gloomily; and in old Scottish enthusiasm,' again that sense alone it appears in Dr. italicising these two words. Johnson's Dictionary. I suppose he 5 See ante, iii. 410. meant by it, with an obstinate reso- See anii, i. 354.
The church of St. Giles.
it. BOSWELL. You would have been glad, however, to have had us last war, sir, to fight your battles!' JOHNSON. “We should have had you for the same price, though there had been no Union, as we might have had Swiss, or other troops. No, no, I shall agree to a separation. You have only to go home. Just as he had said this, I, to divert the subject, shewed him the signed assurances of the three successive Kings of the Hanover family, to maintain the Presbyterian establishment in Scotland. We'll give you that (said he) into the bargain.'
We next went to the great church of St. Giles, which has lost its original magnificence in the inside, by being divided into four places of Presbyterian worship’ ‘Come, (said Dr. Johnson jocularly to Principal Robertson?,) let me see what was once a church! We entered that division which was formerly called the New Church, and of late the High Church, so well known by the eloquence of Dr. Hugh Blair. It is now very elegantly fitted up; but it was then shamefully dirty: Dr. Johnson said nothing
Cockburn (Life of Jeffrey, i. 182) shall use it hereafter. BOSWELL. writing of the beginning of this 3 The dirtiness of the Scotch century, describes how the General churches is taken off in The Tale of Assembly 'met in those days, as it a Tub, sect. xi :-Neither was it had done for about 200 years, in one possible for the united rhetoric of of the aisles of the then grey and mankind to prevail with Jack to venerable cathedral of St. Giles. make himself clean again.' In That plain, square, galleried apart- Humphry Clinker (Letter of Aug. 8) ment was admirably suited for the we are told that 'the good people of purpose ; and it was more interest- Edinburgh no longer think dirt and ing from the men who had acted in cobwebs essential to the house of it, and the scenes it had witnessed, God.' Bishop Horne (Essays and than any other existing room in Thoughts, p. 45) mentioning the Scotland. It had beheld the best maxim laid down in a neighbouring exertions of the best men in the king- kingdom that cleanliness is not dom ever since the year 1640. Yet essential to devotion, continues, “A was it obliterated in the year 1830 Church of England lady once offered with as much indifference as if it had to attend the Kirk there, if she might been of yesterday; and for no reason be permitted to have the pew swept except a childish desire for new and lined. “The pew swept and walls and change.'
lined !” said Mess John's wife, “my I have hitherto called him Dr. husband would think it downright William Robertson, to distinguish popery.". In 1787 he wrote that him from Dr. James Robertson, who there are country churches in Eng
to make his appearance. land 'where, perhaps, three or four But Principal, from his being the noble families attend divine service, head of our college, is his usual which are suffered year after year to designation, and is shorter ; so I be in a condition in which not one of
Edinburgh College buildings.
at the time; but when we came to the great door of the Royal Infirmary, where upon a board was this inscription, 'Clean your feet!' he turned about slyly and said, “There is no occasion for putting this at the doors of your churches!'
We then conducted him down the Post-house stairs, Parliament-close, and made him look up from the Cow-gate to the highest building in Edinburgh, (from which he had just descended,) being thirteen floors or stories from the ground upon the back elevation ; the front wall being built upon the edge of the hill, and the back wall rising from the bottom of the hill several stories before it comes to a level with the front wall. We proceeded to the College, with the Principal at our head. Dr. Adam Fergusson, whose Essay on the History of Civil Society' gives him a respectable place in the ranks of literature, was with us. As the College buildings are indeed very mean, the Principal said to Dr. Johnson, that he must give them the same epithet that a Jesuit did when shewing a poor college abroad : 'He miseria nostra Dr. Johnson was, however, much pleased with the library, and with the conversation of Dr. James Robertson, Professor of Oriental Languages, the Librarian. We talked of Kennicot's edition of the Hebrew Bible?, and hoped it would be quite faithful. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth.'
I pointed out to him where there formerly stood an old wall enclosing part of the college, which I remember bulged out in a threatening manner, and of which there was a common tradition similar to that concerning Bacon's study at Oxford, that it
those families would suffer the worst room in their house to continue for a week.' Essays and Thoughts, p. 271.
" 'Hume recommended Fergusson's friends to prevail on him to suppress the work as likely to be injurious to his reputation. When it had great success he said that his opinion remained the same. He had heard Helvetius and Saurin say that they had told Montesquieu that he ought to suppress his Esprit des Lois. They were still convinced
that their advice was right. J. H.
They were pulled down in 1789.
The Abbey of Holyrood-house.
would fall upon some very learned man'. It had some time before this been taken down, that the street might be widened, and a more convenient wall built. Dr. Johnson, glad of an opportunity to have a pleasant hit at Scottish learning, said, they have been afraid it never would fall.'
We shewed him the Royal Infirmary, for which, and for every other exertion of generous publick spirit in his power, that nobleminded citizen of Edinburgh, George Drummond, will be ever held in honourable remembrance. And we were too proud not to carry him to the Abbey of Holyrood-house, that beautiful piece of architecture, but, alas! that deserted mansion of royalty, which Hamilton of Bangour, in one of his elegant poems, calls
'A virtuous palace, where no monarch dwells?' I was much entertained while Principal Robertson fluently harangued to Dr. Johnson, upon the spot, concerning scenes of his celebrated History of Scotland. We surveyed that part of the palace appropriated to the Duke of Hamilton, as Keeper, in which our beautiful Queen Mary lived, and in which David Rizzio was murdered ; and also the State Rooms. Dr. Johnson was a great reciter of all sorts of things serious or comical. I over-heard him repeating here in a kind of muttering tone, a line of the old ballad, Fohnny Armstrong's Last Good Night:
‘And ran him through the fair body 3!' We returned to my house, where there met him, at dinner, the Duchess of Douglas, Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Chief Baron,
See ante, iii. 357, and post, Johnson's Tour into Wales, Aug. 1, 1774. 2 “There where no statesman buys,
no bishop sells ; A virtuous palace where no
monarch dwells.' An Epitaph. Hamilton's Poems, ed. 1760, p. 260. See ante, iii. 150.
The stanza from which he took this line is, ' But then rose up all Edinburgh,
They rose up by thousands three; A cowardly Scot came John behind, And ran him through the fair body!
Johnson described her as 'an old lady, who talks broad Scotch with a paralytick voice, and is scarce understood by her own countrymen.' Piozzi Letters, i. 109. Lord Shelburne says that 'her husband, the last Duke, could neither read nor write without great difficulty. Fitzmaurice's Shelburne, i. 11. Dr. A. Carlyle (Auto. p. 107) says that in 1745 he heard her say :
:--I have sworn to be Duchess of Douglas or never to mount a marriage bed.' She married the Duke in 1758. R. Chambers wrote in 1825:—'It is a curious fact that sixty years ago there