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1784. Oxford, June; a fortnight. Post, iv. 327, 359.
Lichfield, Ashbourn, Oxford, from July 13 to Nov. 16.
Post, iv. 407, 435.
That he was always eager to see the world is shown by many a passage in his writings and by the testimony of his biographers. How Macaulay, who knew his Boswell so well, could have accused him of 'speaking of foreign travel with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance' would be a puzzle indeed, did we not know how often this great rhetorician was by the stream of his own mighty rhetoric swept far away from the unadorned strand of naked truth. To his unjust and insulting attack I shall content myself with opposing the following extracts which with some trouble I have collected :—
1728 or 1729. Johnson in his undergraduate days was one day overheard saying:—
'I have a mind to see what is done in other places of learning. I'll go and visit the Universities abroad. I'll go to France and Italy. I'll go to Padua.' Ante, i. 85.
1734. ‘A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity, nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.' Ante, i. 103.
1751. 'Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristicks of a vigorous intellect.' Rambler, No. 103. Curiosity is in great and generous minds the first passion and the last; and perhaps always predominates in proportion to the strength of the contemplative faculties.' Ib. No. 150.
1752. Francis Barber, describing Johnson's friends in 1752, says:
'There was a talk of his going to Iceland with Mr. Diamond, which would probably have happened had he lived.' Ante, i. 281. Johnson, in a letter to the wife of the poet Smart, says, 'we have often talked of a voyage to Iceland.' Post, iv. 413, note 3. Mrs. Thrale wrote to him when he was in the Hebrides in 1773-Well! 'tis better talk of Iceland. Gregory challenges you for an Iceland expedition; but I trust there is no need; I suppose good eyes might reach it from some of the places you have been in.' Piozzi Letters, i. 188.
1761. Johnson wrote to Baretti :
'I wish you had staid longer in Spain, for no country is less known to the rest of Europe.' Ante, i. 423. He twice recommended Boswell Ante, i. 474, 527.
to perambulate Spain.
1763. Dr. Johnson flattered me (Boswell) with some hopes that
he would, in the course of the following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour through the Netherlands.' Ante, i. 544.
1772. He said that he had had some desire, though he soon laid it aside, to go on an expedition round the world with Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander. Ante, ii. 169.
1773. Dr. Johnson and I talked of going to Sweden.' Boswell's Hebrides, post, v. 215.
On Sept. 9, 1777, Boswell wrote to Johnson :
'I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltick: I am sorry you have already been in Wales; for I wish to see it.' Ante, iii. 153. Four days later Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale: - Boswell shrinks from the Baltick expedition, which, I think, is the best scheme in our power: what we shall substitute I know not. He wants to see Wales; but except the woods of Bachycraigh (post, v. 436), what is there in Wales, that can fill the hunger of ignorance, or quench the thirst of curiosity? We may, perhaps, form some scheme or other; but in the phrase of Hockley in the Hole, it is a pity he has not a better bottom. Ib. note 2.
'Martin's account of the Hebrides had impressed us with a notion that we might there contemplate a system of life almost totally different from what we had been accustomed to see. . . . Dr. Johnson told me that his father put Martin's account into his hands when he was very young, and that he was much pleased with it.' Post, v. 13.
From the Hebrides Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale:
'I have a desire to instruct myself in the whole system of pastoral life; but I know not whether I shall be able to perfect the idea. However, I have many pictures in my mind, which I could not have had without this journey; and should have passed it with great pleasure had you, and Master, and Queeney been in the party. We should have excited the attention and enlarged the observation of each other, and obtained many pleasing topicks of future conversation.' Piozzi Letters, i. 159. We travelled with very little light in a storm of wind and rain; we passed about fifty-five streams that crossed our way, and fell into a river that, for a very great part of our road, foamed and roared beside us; all the rougher powers of nature except thunder were in motion, but there was no danger. I should have been sorry to have missed any of the inconveniences, to have had more light or less rain, for their co-operation crowded the scene and filled the mind.' Ib. p. 177.
See post, v. 334 for the splendid passage in which, describing the emotions raised in his mind by the sight of Iona, he says:
Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. . . . That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.'
Macaulay seems to have had the echo of these lines still in his ear, when he described imagination as 'that noble faculty whereby man is able to live in the past and in the future, in the distant and in the unreal.' Essays, ed. 1853, iii. 167.
1774. When he saw some copper and iron works in Wales he
'I have enlarged my notions.' Post, v. 504. See also ante, iii. 187. His letter to Warren Hastings shows his curiosity about India. Ante, iv. 79.
1775. The Thrales had just received a sum of £14,000. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale :
If I had money enough, what would I do? Perhaps, if you and master did not hold me, I might go to Cairo, and down the Red Sea to Bengal, and take a ramble to India. Would this be better than building and planting? It would surely give more variety to the eye, and more amplitude to the mind. Half fourteen thousand would send me out to see other forms of existence, and bring me back to describe them.' Piozzi Letters, i. 266.
'Regions mountainous and wild, thinly inhabited and little cultivated, make a great part of the earth, and he that has never seen them must live unacquainted with much of the face of nature, and with one of the great scenes of human existence.' Johnson's Works, ix. 36. 'All travel has its advantages. If the traveller visits better countries he may learn to improve his own; and if fortune carries him to worse he may learn to enjoy it.' Ib. p. 136.
To Dr. Taylor he wrote:
'I came back last Tuesday from France. Is not mine a kind of life turned upside down? Fixed to a spot when I was young, and roving the world when others are contriving to sit still, I am wholly unsettled. I am a kind of ship with a wide sail, and without an anchor.' Ante, ii. 444, note 1.
1776. In the spring of this year everything was settled for his journey to Italy with the Thrales. Hannah More wrote (Memoirs, i. 74) :
'Johnson and Mr. Boswell have this day set out for Oxford, Lichfield, &c., that the Doctor may take leave of all his old friends previous to
to his great expedition across the Alps. I lament his undertaking such a journey at his time of life, with beginning infirmities. I hope he will not leave his bones on classic grounds.'
Boswell tells how
'Speaking with a tone of animation Johnson said, “We must, to be sure, see Rome, Naples, Florence, and Venice, and as much more as we can."' Ante, iii. 22.
When the journey was put off by the sudden death of Mr. Thrale's son, Boswell wrote:
'I perceived that he had so warmly cherished the hope of enjoying classical scenes, that he could not easily part with the scheme; for he said, "I shall probably contrive to get to Italy some other way."' Ib. p. 32.
A day later Boswell wrote:
'A journey to Italy was still in his thoughts. He said, “A man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean."' Ib. p. 42. Johnson's desire to go abroad, particularly to see Italy, was very great; and he had a longing wish, too, to leave some Latin verses at the Grand Chartreux. He loved indeed the very act of travelling. ... He was in some respects an admirable companion on the road, as he piqued himself upon feeling no inconvenience, and on despising no accommodations.' Piozzi's Anec. p. 168.
Johnson, this same year, speaking of a friend who had gone to the East Indies, said:
'I had some intention of accompanying him. Had I thought then as I do now, I should have gone.' Ante, iii. 23. According to Mr. Tyers he once offered to attend another friend to India. Moreover 'he talked much of travelling into Poland to observe the life of the Palatines, the account of which struck his curiosity very much.' Johnsoniana, ed. 1836, p. 157.
1777. Boswell wrote to Johnson this year (ante, iii. 121):—
'You have, I believe, seen all the cathedrals in England except that of Carlisle.'
This was not the case, yet most of them he had already seen or lived to see. With Lichfield, Oxford, and London he was familiar. Winchester and Exeter he had seen in 1762 on his tour to Devonshire (ante, i. 436), Peterborough, Ely, Lincoln, York, and Durham he no doubt saw in 1773 on his way to Scotland. The first three he might also have seen in 1764 on his visit to Langton (ante,
(ante, i. 550). Chester, St. Asaph, Bangor, and Worcester he vis ited in 1774 in his journey to Wales (post, v. 496, 498, 511, 519). Through Canterbury he almost certainly passed in 1775 on his way to France (ante, ii. 441). Bristol he saw in 1776 (ante, iii. 59). To Chichester he drove from Brighton in 1782 (post, iv. 185). Rochester and Salisbury he visited in the summer of 1783 (post, iv. 269, 270). Wells he might easily have seen when he was at Bath in 1776 (ante, iii. 51), and possibly Gloucester. Through Norwich he perhaps came on his return from Lincolnshire in 1764 (ante, i. 550). Hereford, I think, he could not have visited.
When in the September of this year Johnson and Boswell were driving in Dr. Taylor's chaise to Derby, 'Johnson strongly expressed his love of driving fast in a post-chaise. "If," said he, "I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman; but she should be one who could understand me, and would add something to the conversation" (ante, iii. 184). He had previously said (ante, ii. 518), as he was driven rapidly along in a post-chaise, 'Life has not many things better than this.'
1778. Boswell wrote to Johnson :—
'My wife is so different from you and me that she dislikes travelling.' Ante, iii. 249.
Later on in the year Boswell records :
'Dr. Johnson expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall of China. I catched it for the moment, and said I really believed I should go and see the wall of China had I not children, of whom it was my duty to take care. "Sir, (said he,) by doing so you would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a lustre reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China. I am serious, Sir." Ante, iii. 305, 306.
1780. In August he wrote to Boswell:
'I know not whether I shall get a ramble this summer. I hope you and I may yet shew ourselves on some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa.' Ante, iii. 494.
In the same year Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale:
'I hope you have no design of stealing away to Italy before the election, nor of leaving me behind you; though I am not only seventy, but seventy-one.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 177.