« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Johnson's love of anecdotes.
had not then published his Annals of Scotland'.' JOHNSON. 'I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. 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
'See ante, i. 500, and ii. 318.
" See ante, ii. 12.
Euphan M'Cullan (not Eupham Macallan) is mentioned in Dalrymple's [Lord Hailes] Remarks on the History of Scotland, p. 254. She maintained that 'she seldom ever prayed but she got a positive answer.' The minister of her parish was ill. She prayed, and got an answer that for a year's time he should be spared; and after the year's end he fell sick again.' 'I went,' said she, 'to pray yet again for his life; but the Lord left me not an mouse's likeness (a proverbial expression, meaning to reprove with such severity that the person reproved shrinks and becomes abashed), and said, 'Beast that thou art! shall I keep my servant in pain for thy sake?' And when I said, 'Lord, what then shall I do?' He answered me, 'He was but a reed that I spoke through, and I will provide another reed to speak through.' Dalrymple points out that it was a belief in these answers from the Lord' that led John Balfour and his comrades to murder Archbishop Sharp.
R. Chambers, in his Traditions, speaking of the time of Johnson's visit, says (1.21) on the authority of an ancient native of Edinburgh, that people all knew each other by sight. The appearance of a new
Setting oneself' doggedly' to write. [August 16.
things which we have to shew at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliament-House', where the Parliament of Scotland sat, and 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 head,) 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 Laigh3 (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 doggedly to it.'
I here began to indulge old Scottish sentiments, and to
face upon the streets was at once remarked, and numbers busied themselves in finding out who and what the stranger was.'
'It was on this visit to the parliament-house, that Mr. Henry Erskine (brother of Lord Erskine), after being presented to Dr. Johnson by Mr. Boswell, and having made his bow, slipped a shilling into Boswell's hand, whispering that it was for the sight of his bear. WALTER SCOTT.
2 This is one of the Libraries entitled to a copy of every new work published in the United Kingdom. Hume held the office of librarian at a salary of £40 a year from 1752 to 1757. J. H. Burton's Hume, i. 367, 373.
3 The Edinburgh oyster-cellars were called laigh shops. Chambers's Traditions, ii. 268.
This word is commonly used to signify sullenly, gloomily; and in that sense alone it appears in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. I suppose he meant by it, 'with an obstinate resolution, similar to that of a sullen man.' BOSWELL. Southey wrote to Scott:-'Give me more lays, and correct them at leisure for after editions-not laboriously, but when the amendment comes naturally and unsought for. It never does to sit down doggedly to correct. Southey's Life, iii. 126. See ante, i. 384, 385, for the influence of seasons on composition.
Boswell, post, Nov. 1, writes of old Scottish enthusiasm,' again italicising these two words.
The church of St. Giles.
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 remain 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 for'.' 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 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
1 See ante, iii. 466.
2 See ante, i. 410.
' Cockburn (Life of Jeffrey, i. 182) writing of the beginning of this century, describes how the General Assembly 'met in those days, as it had done for about 200 years, in one of the aisles of the then grey and venerable cathedral of St. Giles. That plain, square, galleried apartment was admirably suited for the purpose; and it was more interesting from the men who had acted in it, and the scenes it had witnessed, than any other existing room in Scotland. It had beheld the best exertions of the best men in the kingdom ever since the year 1640. Yet was it obliterated in the year 1830 with as much indifference as if it had been of yesterday; and for no reason except a childish desire for new walls and change.'
• I have hitherto called him Dr. William Robertson, to distinguish
A high building.
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 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
him from Dr. James Robertson, who is soon to make his appearance. But Principal, from his being the head of our college, is his usual designation, and is shorter; so I shall use it hereafter. Boswell.
'The dirtiness of the Scotch churches is taken off in The Tale of a Tub, sect. xi :-'Neither was it possible for the united rhetoric of mankind to prevail with Jack to make himself clean again.' In Humphry Clinker (Letter of Aug. 8) we are told that 'the good people of Edinburgh no longer think dirt and cobwebs essential to the house of God.' Bishop Horne (Essays and Thoughts, p. 45) mentioning 'the maxim laid down in a neighbouring kingdom that cleanliness is not essential to devotion,' continues, A Church of England lady once offered to attend the Kirk there, if she might be permitted to have the pew swept and lined. "The pew swept and lined!" said Mess John's wife, "my husband would think it downright popery."' In 1787 he wrote that there are country churches in England 'where, perhaps, three or four noble families attend divine service, which are suffered year after year to be in a condition in which not one of those families would suffer the worst room in their house to continue for a week.' Essays and Thoughts, p. 271.
2 Hume recommended Fergusson's friends to prevail on him to suppress the work as likely to be injurious to his reputation.' When
Edinburgh College buildings.
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: ‘Hæ miseriæ nostræ.' 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 would fall upon some very learned man3. 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 noble-minded 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,
it had great success he said that his opinion remained the same. 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. Burton's Hume, ii. 385-7. It was at Fergusson's house thirteen years later that Walter Scott, a lad of fifteen, saw Burns shed tears over a print by Bunbury of a soldier lying dead on the snow. Lockhart's Scott, i. 185. See ib. vii. 61, for an anecdote of Fergusson.
1 They were pulled down in 1789. Murray's Handbook for Scotland, ed. 1883, p. 60.
2 See ante, ii. 147.
'See ante, iii. 407, and post, Johnson's Tour into Wales, Aug. 1, 1774.