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Eternal necessity refuted.
concern we have in this world, the choice of our profession, must be determined without demonstrative reasoning. Human life is not yet so well known, as that we can have it. And take the case of a man who is ill. I call two physicians: they differ in opinion. I am not to lie down, and die between them: I must do something.' The conversation then turned on Atheism; on that horrible book, Système de la Nature'; and on the supposition of an eternal necessity, without design, without a governing mind. JOHNSON. 'If it were so, why has it ceased? Why don't we see men thus produced around us now? Why, at least, does it not keep pace, in some measure, with the progress of time? If it stops because there is now no need of it, then it is plain there is, and ever has been, an all powerful intelligence. But stay! (said he, with one of his satyrick laughs*.) Ha! ha! ha! I shall suppose Scotchmen made necessarily, and Englishmen by choice.'
At dinner this day, we had Sir Alexander Dick, whose amiable character, and ingenious and cultivated mind, are so generally known; (he was then on the verge of seventy, and is now (1785) eighty-one, with his faculties entire, his heart warm, and his temper gay;) Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes; Mr. Maclaurin3, advocate; Dr. Gregory, who now worthily fills his father's medical chair'; and my uncle, Dr.
1 By the Baron d'Holbach. Voltaire (Works, xii. 212) describes this book as 'Une Philippique contre Dieu.' He wrote to M. Saurin:'Ce maudit livre du Système de la Nature est un péché contre nature. Je vous sais bien bon gré de réprouver l'athéisme et d'aimer ce vers: "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer." Je suis rarement content de mes vers, mais j'avoue que j'ai une tendresse de père pour celui-là.' Ib. lv. 418.
2 One of Garrick's correspondents speaks of the sneer of one of Johnson's ghastly smiles.' Garrick Corres. i. 334. Ghastly smile' is borrowed from Paradise Lost, ii. 846.
3 See ante, iii. 241. In Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh, ii. 158, is given a comic poem entitled The Court of Session Garland, written by Boswell, with the help, it was said, of Maclaurin.
Dr. John Gregory, Professor of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh, died on Feb. 10 of this year. It was his eldest son James
One of Johnson's best days.
Boswell. This was one of Dr. Johnson's best days. He was quite in his element. All was literature and taste, without any interruption. Lord Hailes, who is one of the best philologists in Great Britain, who has written papers in The World', and a variety of other works in prose and in verse, both Latin and English, pleased him highly. He told him, he had discovered the life of Cheynel, in The Student, to be his. JOHNSON. No one else knows it.' Dr. Johnson had, before this, dictated to me a law-paper, upon a question purely in the law of Scotland, concerning vicious intromission, that is to say, intermeddling with the effects of a deceased person, without a regular title; which formerly was understood to subject the intermeddler to payment of all the defunct's debts. The principle has of late been relaxed. Dr. Johnson's argument was, for a renewal of its strictness. The paper was printed, with additions by me, and given into the Court of Session. Lord Hailes knew Dr. Johnson's part not to be mine, and pointed out exactly where it began, and where it ended. Dr. Johnson said, 'It is much, now, that his lordship can distinguish so.'
In Dr. Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes, there is the following passage:
'The teeming mother, anxious for her race,
Begs, for each birth, the fortune of a face:
Yet Vane could tell, what ills from beauty spring,
And Sedley curs'd the charms which pleas'd a king'.'
Lord Hailes told him, he was mistaken in the instances he had given of unfortunate fair ones; for neither Vane nor Sedley had a title to that description. His Lordship has since been so obliging as to send me a note of this, for the communication of which I am sure my readers will thank me.
who met Johnson. This learned family has given sixteen professors to British Universities.' Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xvi. 289.
'See ante, i. 299, note I.
2 See ante, i. 265.
• See ante, ii. 225.
• In the original, cursed the form that, &c. Johnson's Works, i. 21.
A criticism by Lord Hailes.
'The lines in the tenth Satire of Juvenal, according to my alter ation, should have run thus:
'Yet Shore' could teh-
'The first was a penitent by compulsion, the second by sentiment; though the truth is, Mademoiselle de la Valiere threw herself (but still from sentiment) in the King's way.
'Our friend chose Vane, who was far from being well-looked; and Sedley, who was so ugly, that Charles II. said, his brother had her by way of penance'.'
Mr. Maclaurin's learning and talents enabled him to do his part well in Dr. Johnson's company. He produced two epitaphs upon his father, the celebrated mathematician". One was in English, of which Dr. Johnson did not change one word. In the other, which was in Latin, he made several alterations. In place of the very words of Virgil, Ubi luctus et pavor et plurima mortis imago,' he wrote
1 Mistress of Edward IV.
2 Mistress of Louis XIV. BOSWELL. Voltaire, speaking of the King and Mlle. de La Vallière (not Valiere, as Lord Hailes wrote her name), says: Il goûta avec elle le bonheur rare d'être aimé uniquement pour lui-même.' Siècle de Louis XIV, ch. 25. He describes her penitence in a fine passage. Ib. ch. 26.
3 Malone, in a note on the Life of Johnson under 1749, says that 'this lady was not the celebrated Lady Vane, whose memoirs were given to the public by Dr. Smollett [in Peregrine Pickle], but Anne Vane, who was mistress to Frederick Prince of Wales, and died in 1736, not long before Johnson settled in London.' She is mentioned
in a note to Horace Walpole's Letters, I. cxxxvi.
* Catharine Sedley, the mistress of James II, is described by Macaulay, Hist. of Eng. ed. 1874, ii. 323.
5 Dr. A. Carlyle (Auto. p. 114) tells how in 1745 he found Professor Maclaurin busy on the walls on the south side of Edinburgh, endeavouring to make them more defensible [against the Pretender]. He had even erected some small cannon.' See ante, iii. 17, for a ridiculous story told of him by Goldsmith.
Luctus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago :'
And fear on every side there is, and many-faced is death.'
Professor Maclaurin's epitaph. [August 17,
'Ubi luctus regnant et pavor.' He introduced the word prorsus into the line 'Mortalibus prorsus non absit solatium,' and after 'Hujus enim scripta evolve,' he added ‘Mentemque tantarum rerum capacem corpori caduco superstitem crede;' which is quite applicable to Dr. Johnson himself'.
Mr. Murray, advocate, who married a niece of Lord Mansfield's, and is now one of the judges of Scotland, by the title of Lord Henderland, sat with us a part of the evening; but did not venture to say any thing, that I remember, though he is certainly possessed of talents which would have enabled him to have shewn himself to advantage, if too great anxiety had not prevented him.
At supper we had Dr. Alexander Webster, who, though not learned, had such a knowledge of mankind, such a fund of information and entertainment, so clear a head and such accommodating manners, that Dr. Johnson found him a very agreeable companion.
When Dr. Johnson and I were left by ourselves, I read to him my notes of the Opinions of our Judges upon the questions of Literary Property'. He did not like them; and said, 'they make me think of your Judges not with that respect which I should wish to do.' To the argument of one of them, that there can be no property in blasphemy or nonsense, he answered, then your rotten sheep are mine!
' Mr. Maclaurin's epitaph, as engraved on a marble tombstone, in the Grey-Friars church-yard, Edinburgh :
Infra situs est
Mathes. olim in Acad. Edin. Prof. Electus ipso Newtono suadente. H. L. P. F.
Non ut nomini paterno consulat,
August 18.] Boswell's description of himself.
By that rule, when a man's house falls into decay, he must lose it.' I mentioned an argument of mine, that literary performances are not taxed. As Churchill says,
'No statesman yet has thought it worth his pains To tax our labours, or excise our brains';' and therefore they are not property. Yet, (said he,) we hang a man for stealing a horse, and horses are not taxed.' Mr. Pitt has since put an end to that argument'.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18.
On this day we set out from Edinburgh. We should gladly have had Mr. Scott to go with us; but he was obliged to return to England.—I have given a sketch of Dr. Johnson: my readers may wish to know a little of his fellow traveller. Think then, of a gentleman of ancient blood,
'What is't to us, if taxes rise or fall,
No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains,
Churchill's Poems, Night, ed. 1766, i. 89.
2 Pitt, in 1784, laid a tax of ten shillings a year on every horse 'kept for the saddle, or to be put in carriages used solely for pleasure.' Parl. Hist. xxiv. 1028.
* In 1763 he published the following description of himself in his Correspondence with Erskine, ed. 1879, p. 36. The author of the Ode to Tragedy is a most excellent man; he is of an ancient family in the west of Scotland, upon which he values himself not a little. At his nativity there appeared omens of his future greatness. His parts are bright; and his education has been good. He has travelled in postchaises miles without number. He is fond of seeing much of the world. He eats of every good dish, especially apple-pie. He drinks old hock. He has a very fine temper. He is somewhat of an humorist, and a little tinctured with pride. He has a good manly countenance, and he owns himself to be amorous. He has infinite vivacity, yet is observed at times to have a melancholy cast. He is rather fat than lean, rather short than tall, rather young than old.' He is oddly enough described in Arighi's Histoire de Pascal Paoli, i. 231, En tra