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Biography and history compared.
MON BODDO. “Ay, and what we (looking to me) would call a parliament-house scene' ; a cause pleaded.' JOHNSON. “That is part of the life of a nation in peace. And there are in Homer such characters of heroes, and combinations of qualities of heroes, that the united powers of mankind ever since have not produced any but what are to be found there.' MONBODDO. 'Yet no character is described.' JOHNSON. 'No; they all develope themselves. Agamemnon is always a gentleman-like character; he has always BAGLALKOV TI. That the ancients held so, is plain from this; that Euripides, in his Hecuba, makes him the person to interpose?' MON BODDO. 'The history of manners is the most valuable. I never set a high value on any other history. JOHNSON. 'Nor I; and therefore I esteem biography, as giving us what comes near to ourselves, what we can turn to use?' BOSWELL. “But in the course of general history, we find manners. In wars, we see the dispositions of people, their degrees of humanity, and other particulars. JOHNSON. 'Yes; but then you must take all the facts to get this; and it is but a little you get.' MON BODDO. 'And it is that little which
nay, even harvest - sport, and the modes of ancient theft are described.' BOSWELL. 'One of the best criticks' is, I believe, Malone, who had 'perused the original manuscript.? See ante
, p. 1; and post, Oct. 26, and under Nov. 11. ' It was in the Parliament-house that “the ordinary Lords of Session," the Scotch Judges, that is to say, held their courts. Ante, p. 39.
sides. Dr. Johnson maintained the superiority of Homer. BOSWELL. Johnson told Windham that he had never read through the Odyssey in the original. Windham's Diary, p. 17. See ante, iii. 193, and May 1, 1783.
3 Johnson ten years earlier told Boswell that he loved most 'the biographical part of literature.' Ante,
Goldsmith said of biography :-'It furnishes us with an opportunity of giving advice freely and without offence. . . . Counsels as well as compliments are best conveyed in an indirect and oblique manner, and this renders biography as well as fable a most convenient vehicle for instruction. An ingenious gentleman was asked what was the best lesson for youth ; he answered, "The life of a good man.” Being again asked what was the next best, he replied, “The life of a bad one." Prior's Goldsmith, i, 395.
* Dr. Johnson modestly said, he had not read Homer so much as he wished he had done. But this conversation shews how well he was acquainted with the Mæonian bard; and he has shewn it still more in his criticism upon Pope's Homer, in bis Life of that Poet. My excellent friend, Mr. Langton, told me, he was once present at a dispute between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Burke, on the comparative merits of Homer and Virgil, which was carried on with extraordinary abilities on both
makes history valuable.' Bravo! thought I; they agree like two brothers. MONBODDO. 'I am sorry, Dr. Johnson, you were not longer at Edinburgh to receive the homage of our men of learning. JOHNSON. 'My lord, I received great respect and great kindness.' BOSWELL. 'He goes back to Edinburgh after our tour. We talked of the decrease of learning in Scotland, and of the Muses' Welcome'. JOHNSON. Learning is much decreased in England, in my remembrance?' MONBODDO. “You, Sir, have lived to see its decrease in England, I its extinction in Scotland. However, I brought him to confess that the High School of Edinburgh did well. JOHNSON. 'Learning has decreased in England, because learning will not do so much for a man as formerly. There are other ways of getting preferment. Few bishops are now made for their learning. To be a bishop, a man must be learned in a learned age, -factious in a factious age; but always of eminence Warburton is an exception; though his learning alone did not raise him. He was first an antagonist to Pope, and helped Theobald to publish his Shakspeare ; but, seeing Pope the rising man, when Crousaz attacked his Essay on Man, for some faults which it has, and some which it has not, Warburton defended it in the Review of that time. This brought him acquainted with Pope, and he gained his friendship. Pope introduced him to Allen, Allen married him to his niece: so, by Allen's interest and his own, he was made a bishops. But then his learning
See ante, p. 57.
rejecting revelation; and from month ? Ten years later he said :- to month continued a vindication of “There is now a great deal more the Essay on Man in the literary learning in the world than there journal of that time, called the Rewas formerly ; for it is universally publick of Letters.' Johnson's Works, diffused.' Ante, April 29, 1783. Wind- viii. 289. Pope wrote to Warburton ham (Diary, p. 17) records 'John- of the Essay on Man:-'You underson's opinion that I could not name stand my work better than I do myabove five of my college acquaint- self. Pope's Works, ed. 1886, ix. ances who read Latin with sufficient ease to make it pleasurable.' s See ante, ii. 37, note 1, and Pope's 3 See ante, ii. 352.
Works, ed. 1886, ix. 220. Allen was * "Warburton, whatever was his Ralph Allen of Prior Park near motive, undertook without solicita- Bath, to whom Fielding dedicated tion to rescue Pope from the talons Amelia, and who is said to have of Crousaz, by freeing him from the been the original of Allworthy in imputation of favouring fatality, or Tom Jones. It was he of whom
August 21.] The Savage and the London Shopkeeper.
was the sine qua non: he knew how to make the most of it; but I do not find by any dishonest means. MON BODDO. “He is a great man. JOHNSON. ‘Yes; he has great knowledge,great power of mind. Hardly any man brings greater variety of learning to bear upon his point?' MONBODDO, 'He is one of the greatest lights of your church. JOHNSON. 'Why, we are not so sure of his being very friendly to us?. He blazes, if you will, but that is not always the steadiest light. Lowth is another bishop who has risen by his learning.'
Dr. Johnson examined young Arthur, Lord Monboddo's son, in Latin. He answered very well ; upon which he said, with complacency, 'Get you gone! When King James comes back3, you shall be in the Muses' Welcome !' My lord and Dr. Johnson disputed a little, whether the Savage or the London Shopkeeper had the best existence; his lordship, as usual, preferring the Savage. My lord was extremely hospitable, and I saw both Dr. Johnson and him liking each other better every hour.
Dr. Johnson having retired for a short time, his lordship spoke of his conversation as I could have wished. Dr. Johnson had' said, 'I have done greater feats with my knife than this;' though he had eaten a very hearty dinner. My lord, who affects or believes he follows an abstemious system, seemed struck with
Berkeley, but infinitely better en'Let low-born Allen, with an awk- title him to the character of a great ward shame,
genius.' Do good by stealth and blush ? It is of Warburton that Churto find it fame.'
chill wrote in The Duellist (Poems, Epilogue to the Satires, i. 135. ed. 1766, ii. 82):Low-born in later editions
‘To prove his faith which all admit changed to humble. Warburton not Is at least equal to his wit, only married his niece, but, on his And make himself a man of note, death, became in her right owner of He in defence of Scripture wrote; Prior Park.
So long he wrote, and long about "Mr. Mark Pattison (Satires of it, Pope, p. 158) points out Warburton's That e'en believers 'gan to doubt want of penetration in that subject [metaphysics] which he considered 3 I find some doubt has been enmore peculiarly his own.' He said tertained concerning Dr. Johnson's of 'the late Mr. Baxter' (Andrew meaning here. It is to be supposed Baxter, not Richard Baxter), that'a that he meant, 'when a king shall few pages of his reasoning have not again be entertained in Scotland.' only more sense and substance than BOSWELL. all the elegant discourses of Dr. VOL, V.
Politeness fictitious benevolence.
Dr. Johnson's manner of living. I had a particular satisfaction in being under the roof of Monboddo, my lord being my father's old friend, and having been always very good to me. We were cordial together. He asked Dr. Johnson and me to stay all night. When I said we must be at Aberdeen, he replied, 'Well, I am like the Romans : I shall say to you, “ Happy to come ;happy to depart !” He thanked Dr. Johnson for his visit. JOHNSON. “I little thought, when I had the honour to meet your Lordship in London, that I should see you at Monboddo.' After dinner, as the ladies' were going away, Dr. Johnson would stand up. He insisted that politeness was of great consequence in society. It is said he,) fictitious benevolence. It supplies the place of it amongst those who see each other only in publick, or but little. Depend upon it, the want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other, I have always applied to good breeding, what Addison in his Cato 3 says of honour :
“ Honour's a sacred tie; the law of Kings;
The noble mind's distinguishing perfection,
And imitates her actions where she is not.”
Gory, my lord's black servant, was sent as our guide, to conduct us to the high road. The circumstance of each of them having a black servant was another point of similarity between Johnson and Monboddo. I observed how curious it was to see
Perhaps among these ladies was the Miss Burnet of Monboddo, on whom Burns wrote an elegy.
* In the Rambler, No. 98, entitled The Necessity of Cultivating Politeness, Johnson says :-—'The universal axiom in which all complaisance is included, and from which flow all the formalities which custom has established in civilized nations, is, That no man shall give any preference to himself.' In the same paper, he says that 'unnecessarily to obtrude un
pleasing ideas is a species of oppression.'
3 Act ii. sc. 5.
* Perhaps he was referring to Polyphemus's club, which was
Of height and bulk so vast The largest ship might claim it for a mast.'
Pope's Odyssey, ix. 382. Or to Agamemnon's sceptre :Which never more shall leaves or blossoms bear.'
Iliad, i. 310.
August 21.) Johnson pleased with Lord Monboddo.
an African in the North of Scotland, with little or no difference of manners from those of the natives. Dr. Johnson laughed to see Gory and Joseph riding together most cordially. “Those two fellows, (said he,) one from Africa, the other from Bohemia, seem quite at home. He was much pleased with Lord Monboddo to-day. He said, he would have pardoned him for a few paradoxes, when he found he had so much that was good : but that, from his appearance in London, he thought him all paradox; which would not do. He observed that his lordship had talked no paradoxes to-day. And as to the savage and the London shopkeeper, (said he,) I don't know but I might have taken the side of the savage equally, had any body else taken the side of the shopkeeper?' He had said to my lord, in opposition to the value of the savage's courage, that it was owing to his limited power of thinking, and repeated Pope's verses, in which Macedonia's madman' is introduced, and the conclusion is,
" Yet ne'er looks forward farther than his nose?.' I objected to the last phrase, as being low. JOHNSON.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is intended to be low: it is satire. The expression is debased, to debase the character.'
When Gory was about to part from us, Dr. Johnson called to him, 'Mr. Gory, give me leave to ask you a question ! are you baptised ?' Gory told him he was, and confirmed by the Bishop of Durham. He then gave him a shilling.
We had tedious driving this afternoon, and were somewhat drowsy. Last night I was afraid Dr. Johnson was beginning to faint in his resolution ; for he said, 'If we must ride much, we shall not go ; and there's an end on't.' To-day, when he talked
''We agreed pretty well, only we disputed in adjusting the claims of merit between a shopkeeper of London and a savage of the American wildernesses. Our opinions were, I think, maintained on both sides without full conviction ; Monboddo declared boldly for the savage, and I, perhaps for that reason, sided with the citizen.' Piozzi Letters, i. 115. 2 "Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed,
From Macedonia's madman to the
lives to find,
kind! Not one looks backward, onward
still he goes, Yet ne'er looks forward further than his nose.'
Essay on Man, iv, 219.