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Burke an extraordinary man.
time in the street where you were stopped by a drove of oxen, and you and he stepped aside to take shelter but for five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say, this is an extraordinary man'. Now, you may be long enough with me, without finding any thing extraordinary.' He said, he believed Burke was intended for the law; but either had not money enough to follow it, or had not diligence enough'. He said, he could not understand how a man could apply to one thing, and not to another. ROBERTSON said, one man had more judg
, ment, another more imagination. JOHNSON. “No, Sir; it is only, one man has more mind than another. He may direct it differently; he may, by accident, see the success of one kind of study, and take a desire to excel in it. I am persuaded that, had Sir Isaac Newton applied to poetry, he would have made a very fine epick poem. I could as easily apply to law as to tragick poetry.' BOSWELL. “Yet, Sir, you did apply to tragick poetry, not to law.' JOHNSON. ‘Because, Sir, I had not money to study law. Sir, the man who has vigour, may walk to the east, just as well as to the west, if he happens to turn his head that way®.' BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, 'tis like walking up and down a hill; one man will naturally do the one better than the other. A hare will run up a hill best, from her fore-legs being short; a dog down.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir; that is from mechanical powers. If you make mind mechanical, you may argue in that manner. One mind is a vice, and holds fast; there's a good memory. Another is a file; and he is a disputant, a controversialist. Another is a razor; and he is sarcastical.' We talked of Whitefield. He said he was at the same college with him*, and knew him before he began to be better than other people
See ante, vol. iv. May 15, 1784. : Prior (Life of Burke, pp. 31, 36) says that ‘from the first his destination was the Bar.' His name was entered at the Middle Temple in 1747, but he was never called. Why he gave up the profession his biographer cannot tell.
* See ante, ii. 500, note 2. • See ante, i. 91. note 1.
Wesley and Whitefield.
(smiling ;) that he believed he sincerely meant well, but had a mixture of politicks and ostentation : whereas Wesley thought of religion only'. ROBERTSON said, Whitefield had strong natural eloquence, which, if cultivated, would have done great things. JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, I take it, he was at the height of what his abilities could do, and was
That cannot be said now, after the flagrant part which Mr. John Wesley took against our American brethren, when, in his own name, he threw amongst his enthusiastick flock, the very individual combustibles of Dr. Johnson's Taxation no Tyranny; and after the intolerant spirit which he manifested against our fellow-christians of the Roman Catholick Communion, for which that able champion, Father O'Leary, has given him so hearty a drubbing. But I should think myself very unworthy, if I did not at the same time acknowledge Mr. John Wesley's merit, as a veteran ·Soldier of Jesus Christ ' [2 Timothy, ii. 3), who has, I do believe, 'turned many from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to the living God'[Acts, xxvi. 18]. BosWELL. Wesley wrote on Nov. II, 1775 (Journal, iv. 56), “I made some additions to the Calm Address to our American Colonies. Need any one ask from what motive this was wrote? Let him look round; England is in a flame! a flame of malice and rage against the King, and almost all that are in authority under him. I labour to put out this flame.' He wrote a few days later :— As to reviewers, newswriters, London Magazines, and all that kind of gentlemen, they behave just as I expected they would. And let them lick up Mr. Toplady's spittle still; a champion worthy of their cause.' Journal, p. 58. In a letter published in Jan. 1780, he said :
-I insist upon it, that no government, not Roman Catholic, ought to tolerate men of the Roman Catholic persuasion. They ought not to be tolerated by any government, Protestant, Mahometan, or Pagan.' To this the Rev. Arthur O'Leary replied with great wit and force, in a pamphlet entitled, Remarks on the Rev. Mr. Wesley's Letters. Dublin, 1780. Wesley ( Journal, iv. 365) mentions meeting O'Leary, and says :– He seems not to be wanting either in sense or learning.' Johnson wrote to Wesley on Feb. 6, 1776 (Croker's Boswell, p. 475), I have thanks to return you for the addition of your important suffrage to my argument on the American question. To have gained such a mind as yours may justly confirm me in my own opinion. What effect my paper has upon the public, I know not; but I have no reason to be discouraged. The lecturer was surely in the right, who, though he saw his audience slinking away, refused to quit the chair while Plato staid:
Sticking to a party.
sensible of it. He had the ordinary advantages of education ; but he chose to pursue that oratory which is for the mob'.' BOSWELL. “He had great effect on the passions.' JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, I don't think so.
He could not represent a succession of pathetic images. He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer.' Dr. Johnson now said, a certain eminent political friend of ours' was wrong, in his maxim of sticking to a certain set of men on all occasions. “I can see that a man may do right to stick to a party (said he ;) that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars it may be wrong
. He takes its faggot of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men, (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow,) without any general preference of system, I must disapproveo.'
1. Powerful preacher as he was,' writes Southey, ‘he had neither strength nor acuteness of intellect, and his written compositions are nearly worthless.' Southey's Wesley, i. 323. See ante, ii. 91.
Mr. Burke. See ante, ii. 255, 326, note 3, and iii. 52. • If due attention were paid to this observation, there would be more virtue, even in politicks. What Dr. Johnson justly condemned, has, I am sorry to say, greatly increased in the present reign. At the distance of four years from this conversation, 21st February, 1777, My Lord Archbishop of York, in his 'sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,' thus indignantly describes the then state of parties :
• Parties once had a principle belonging to them, absurd perhaps, and indefensible, but still carrying a notion of duty, by which honest minds inight easily be caught.
* But there are now combinations of individuals, who, instead of being the sons and servants of the community, make a league for advancing their private interests. It is their business to hold high the notion of political honour. I believe and trust, it is not injurious to say, that such a bond is no better than that by which the lowest and wickedest combinations are held together; and that it denotes the last stage of political depravity.'
August 15.] Archbishop Markham on parties.
He told us of Cooke, who translated Hesiod, and lived twenty years on a translation of Plautus, for which he was always taking subscriptions; and that he presented Foote to a Club, in the following singular manner: “This is the nephew of the gentleman who was lately hung in chains for murdering his brother'.'
In the evening I introduced to Mr. Johnson’ two good
To find a thought, which just shewed itself to us from the mind of Johnson, thus appearing again at such a distance of time, and without any communication between them, enlarged to full growth in the mind of Markham, is a curious object of philosophical contemplation.
- That two such great and luminous minds should have been so dark in one corner,--that they should have held it to be Wicked rebellion in the British subjects established in America, to resist the abject condition of holding all their property at the mercy of British subjects remaining at home, while their allegiance to our common Lord the King was to be preserved inviolate,-is a striking proof to me, either that ‘He who sitteth in Heaven' [Psalms, ii. 4] scorns the loftiness of human pride,—or that the evil spirit, whose personal existence I strongly believe, and even in this age am confirmed in that belief by a Fell, nay, by a Hurd, has more power than some choose to allow. BOSWELL. Horace Walpole writing on June 10, 1778, after censuring Robertson for sneering at Las Casas, continues :— Could Archbishop Markham in a Sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel by fire and sword paint charity in more contemptuous terms? It is a Christian age.' Letters, vii. 81. It was Archbishop Markham to whom Johnson made the famous bow; ante, vol. iv, just before April 10, 1783. John Fell published in 1779 Demoniacs; an Enquiry into the Heathen and Scripture Doctrine of Daemons. For Hurd see ante, under June 9, 1784.
See Forster's Essays, ii. 304-9. Mr. Forster often quotes Cooke in his Life of Goldsmith. He describes him (i. 58) as a young Irish law student who had chambers near Goldsmith in the temple.' Goldsmith did not reside in the temple till 1763 (ib. p. 336), and Cooke was old enough to have published his Hesiod in 1728, and to have found a place in The Dunciad (ii. 138). See Elwin and Courthope's Pope, x. 212, for his correspondence with Pope.
* It may be observed, that I sometimes call my great friend, Mr. Johnson, sometimes Dr. Johnson; though he had at this time a doctor's degree from Trinity College, Dublin. The University of Oxford afterwards conferred it upon him by a diploma, in very honourable terms. It was some time before I could bring myself to call him
Fohnson's Contempt of tragick acting. [August 16.
friends of mine, Mr. William Nairne, Advocate, and Mr. Hamilton of Sundrum, my neighbour in the country, both of whom supped with us. I have preserved nothing of what passed, except that Dr. Johnson displayed another of his heterodox opinions,-a contempt of tragick acting'. He said, the action of all players in tragedy is bad. It should be a man's study to repress those signs of emotion and passion, as they are called. He was of a directly contrary opinion to that of Fielding, in his Tom Jones; who makes Partridge say, of Garrick, 'why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did”. For, when I asked him, “Would you not, Sir, start as Mr. Garrick does, if you saw a ghost?' He answered, 'I hope not. If I did, I should frighten the ghost.'
MONDAY, AUGUST 16.
Dr. William Robertson came to breakfast. We talked of Ogden on Prayer. Dr. Johnson said, “The same arguments which are used against God's hearing prayer, will 'serve against his rewarding good, and punishing evil. He has resolved, he has declared, in the former case as in the latter.' He had last night looked into Lord Hailes's Remarks on the History of Scotland. Dr. Robertson and I said, it was a pity Lord Hailes did not write greater things. His lordship
Doctor; but, as he has been long known by that title, I shall give it to him in the rest of this Journal. BOSWELL. See ante, i. 565, note 3, and ii. 380, note i.
' In The Idler, No. viii, Johnson has the following fling at tragedians. He had mentioned the terror struck into our soldiers by the Indian war-cry, and he continues :—I am of opinion that by a proper mixture of asses, bulls, turkeys, geese, and tragedians a noise might be procured equally horrid with the war-cry. See ante, ii. 105.
* Tom Jones, Bk. xvi. chap. 5. Mme. Necker in a letter to Garrick said :— Nos acteurs se métamorphosent assez bien, mais Monsieur Garrick fait autre chose; il nous métamorphose tous dans le caractère qu'il a revêtu ; nous sommes remplis de terreur avec Hamlet,' &c. Garrick Corres. ii. 627.