Slike strani

Sept. 29.) Mr. M Pherson's estimate of Johnson.


'Interim fiat, tua, rex, voluntas:
Erigor sursum quoties subit spes
Certa migrandi Solymam supernam,

Numinis aulam.'
He concludes in a noble strain of orthodox piety:-

Vita tum demum vocitanda vita est.
Tum licet gratos socios habere,
Seraphim et sanctos TRIADEM verendam


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29'. After a very good sleep, I rose more refreshed than I had

I been for some nights. We were now at but a little distance from the shore, and saw the sea from our windows, which made our voyage seem nearer.

Mr. M.Pherson's manners and address pleased us much. He appeared to be a man of such intelligence and taste as to be sensible of the extraordinary powers of his illustrious guest. He said to me, * Dr. Johnson is an honour to mankind; and, if the expression may be used, is an honour to religion.'

Mr. Croker prints the following letter written to Macleod the day before

"Ostig, 28th Sept. 1773. * DEAR SIR,- We are now on the margin of the sea, waiting for a boat and a wind. Boswell grows impatient; but the kind treatment which I find wherever I go, makes me leave, with some heaviness of heart, an island which I am not very likely to see again. Having now gone as far as horses can carry us, we thankfully return them. My steed will, I hope, be received with kindness ;-he has borne me, heavy as I am, over ground both rough and steep, with great fidelity; and for the use of him, as for your other favours, I hope you will believe me thankful, and willing, at whatever distance we may be placed, to shew my sense of your kindness, by any offices of friendship that may fall within my power.

Lady Macleod and the young ladies have, by their hospitality and politeness, made an impression on my mind, which will not easily be effaced. Be pleased to tell them, that I remember them with great tenderness, and great respect.-I am, Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant,

·Sam. Johnson.' *P.S.-We passed two days at Talisker very happily, both by the pleasantness of the place and elegance of our reception.'

Col, 304


(Sept. 29.

Col, who had gone yesterday to pay a visit at Camuscross, joined us this morning at breakfast. Some other gentlemen also came to enjoy the entertainment of Dr. Johnson's conversation. The day was windy and rainy, so that we had just seized a happy interval for our journey last night. We had good entertainment here, better accommodation than at Corrichatachin, and time enough to ourselves. The hours slipped along imperceptibly. We talked of Shenstone. Dr. Johnson said he was a good layer-out of land', but would not allow him to approach excellence as a poet. He said, he believed he had tried to read all his Love Pastorals, but did not get through them. I repeated the stanza,

'She gazed as I slowly withdrew;

My path I could hardly discern;
So sweetly she bade me adieu,

I thought that she bade me return”.' He said, “That seems to be pretty.' I observed that Shenstone, from his short maxims in prose, appeared to have some power of thinking; but Dr. Johnson would not allow him that merit'. He agreed, however, with Shenstone, that it was wrong in the brother of one of his correspondents to burn his letters': 'for, (said he,) Shenstone was a man whose

' Johnson (Works, viii. 409), after describing how Shenstone laid out the Leasowes, continues :- Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the view; to make water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate where it will be seen; to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased, and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden, demands any great powers of mind, I will not inquire: perhaps a surly and sullen speculator may think such performances rather the sport than the business of human reason.'

* Johnson quotes this and the two preceding stanzas as 'a passage, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has no acquaintance with love or nature.' Ib. p. 413.

• His mind was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active; he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself cultivated.' Ib. p. 411.

* In the preface to vol. iii. of Shenstone's Works, ed. 1773, a quotation is given (p. vi.) from one of the poet's letters in which he com

correspondence Sept. 29.]




correspondence was an honour.' He was this afternoon full of critical severity, and dealt about his censures on all sides. He said, Hammond's Love Elegies were poor things'. He spoke contemptuously of our lively and elegant, though too licentious, Lyrick bard, Hanbury Williams, and said, ' he had no fame, but from boys who drank with him”.'

While he was in this mood, I was unfortunate enough, simply perhaps, but I could not help thinking, undeservedly, to come within ‘the whiff and wind of his fell sword”. I asked him, if he had ever been accustomed to wear a night-cap. He said *No.' I asked, if it was best not to wear one. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I had this custom by chance, and perhaps no man shall ever know whether it is best to sleep with or without a night-cap.' Soon afterwards he was laughing at some deficiency in the Highlands, and said, “One might as well go without shoes and stockings.' Thinking to have a little hit at his own deficiency, I ventured to add, or without a night-cap, Sir.' But I had better have been silent ; for he retorted directly. “I do not see the connection there (laughing). Nobody before was ever foolish enough to ask whether it was best to wear a night-cap or not. This comes of being

plains of this burning. He writes :- I look upon my Letters as some of my chef-d'auvres,' On p. 301, after mentioning Rasselas, he con tinues :— Did I tell you I had a letter from Johnson, inclosing Vernon's Parish-clerk?' 1. The truth is these elegies have neither passion, nature, nor man

Where there is fiction, there is no passion : he that describes himself as a shepherd, and his Neæra or Delia as a shepherdess, and talks of goats and lambs, feels no passion. He that courts his mistress with Roman imagery deserves to lose her; for she may with good reason suspect his sincerity.' Johnson's Works, viii. 91. See ante, iv. 120. * His lines on Pulteney, Earl of Bath, still deserve some fame :

• Leave a blank here and there in each page

To enrol the fair deeds of his youth!
When you mention the acts of his age,
Leave a blank for his honour and truth.'

From The Statesman, H. Ç. Williams's Odes, p. 47.
Hamlet, act ii. sc. 2.

a little


Burke the first man everywhere.

(Sept. 30.

a little wrong-headed.' He carried the company along with him; and yet the truth is, that if he had always worn a night-cap, as is the common practice, and found the Highlanders did not wear one, he would have wondered at their barbarity; so that my hit was fair enough.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30. There was as great a storm of wind and rain as I have almost ever seen, which necessarily confined us to the house; but we were fully compensated by Dr. Johnson's conversation. He said, he did not grudge Burke's being the first man in the House of Commons, for he was the first man every where; but he grudged that a fellow who makes no figure in company, and has a mind as narrow as the neck of a vinegar cruet, should make a figure in the House of Commons, merely by having the knowledge of a few forms, and being furnished with a little occasional information'. He told us, the first time he saw Dr. Young was at the house of Mr. Richardson, the author of Clarissa. He was sent for, that the doctor might read to him his Conjectures on original Composition", which he did, and Dr. Johnson made his


· He did not mention the name of any particular person; but those who are conversant with the political world will probably recollect more persons than one to whom this observation may be applied. BOSWELL. Mr. Croker thinks that Lord North was meant. For his ministry Johnson certainly came to have a great contempt (ante, iv. 161). If Johnson was thinking of him, he differed widely in opinion from Gibbon, who describes North as a consummate master of debate, who could wield with equal dexterity the arms of reason and of ridicule.' Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 221. On May 2, 1775, he wrote:

- If they turned out Lord North to-morrow, they would still leave him one of the best companions in the kingdom.' Ib. ii. 135.

• Horace Walpole is speaking of this work, when he wrote on May 16, 1759 (Letters, iii. 227):– Dr. Young has published a new book, on purpose, he says himself, to have an opportunity of telling a story that he has known these forty years. Mr. Addison sent for the young Lord Warwick, as he was dying, to shew him in what peace a Christian could die--unluckily he died of brandy--nothing makes a Christian die in peace like being maudlin! but don't say this in Gath, where Sept. 30.)

you are.'


Dr. Young


remarks; and he was surprized to find Young receive as novelties, what he thought very common maxims. He said, he believed Young was not a great scholar, nor had studied regularly the art of writing'; that there were very fine things in his Night Thoughts”, though you could not find twenty lines together without some extravagance. He repeated two passages from his Love of Fame, ---the characters of Brunetta’ and Stella“, which he praised highly. He said Young

1.His [Young's] plan seems to have started in his mind at the present moment; and his thoughts appear the effect of chance, sometimes adverse, and sometimes lucky, with very little operation of judgment. ... His verses are formed by no certain model; he is no more like himself in his different productions than he is like others. He seems never to have studied prosody, nor to have had any direction but from his own ear. But with all his defects, he was a man of genius and a poet.' Johnson's Works, viii. 458, 462. Mrs. Piozzi (Synonymy, ii. 371) tells why ‘Dr. Johnson despised Young's quantity of common knowledge as comparatively small. 'Twas only because, speaking once upon the subject of metrical composition, he seemed totally ignorant of what are called rhopalick verses, from the Greek word, a club-verses in which each word must be a syllable longer than that which goes before, such as:

Spes deus aeternae stationis conciliator.' · He had said this before. Ante, ii. 11.

* Brunetta's wise in actions great and rare,
But scorns on trifles to bestow her care.
Thus ev'ry hour Brunetta is to blame,
Because th' occasion is beneath her aim,
Think nought a trifle, though it small appear;
Small sands the mountains, moments make the year,
And trifles life. Your care to trifles give,
Or you may die before you truly live.'

Love of Fame, Satire vi. Johnson often taught that life is made up of trifles. See ante,

i. 502.

““ But hold,” she cries, “lampooner, have a care;
Must I want common sense, because I'm fair?"
O no: see Stella; her eyes shine as bright,
As if her tongue was never in the right;
And yet what real learning, judgment, fire!
She seems inspir'd, and can herself inspire:


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