Slike strani


Johnson's character.

for victory'; he was too conscientious to make errour permanent and pernicious, by deliberately writing it. He was conscious of his superiority. He loved praise when it was brought to him; but was too proud to seek for it. He was somewhat susceptible of flattery'. His mind was so full of imagery, that he might have been perpetually a poet. It has been often remarked, that in his poetical pieces, which it is to be regretted are so few, because so excellent, his style is easier than in his prose. There is deception in this: it is not easier, but better suited to the dignity of verse; as one may dance with grace, whose motions, in ordinary walking, in the common step, are awkward. He had a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking: yet, though grave and awful in his deportment, when he thought it necessary or proper, he frequently indulged himself in pleasantry and sportive sallies. He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He had a loud voice, and a slow deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation'. His

1 See ante, iv. 129.

'Baretti, in a MS. note on Piozzi Letters, i. 309, says :-The most unaccountable part of Johnson's character was his total ignorance of the character of his most familiar acquaintance.'

'Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry, and some truth, that 'Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bow-wow way:' but I admit the truth of this only on some occasions. The Messiah, played upon the Canterbury organ, is more sublime than when played upon an inferior instrument, but very slight musick will seem grand, when conveyed to the ear through that majestick medium. While therefore Dr. Johnson's sayings are read, let his manner be taken along with them. Let it, however, be observed, that the sayings themselves are generally great; that, though he might be an ordinary composer at times, he was for the most part a Handel. BOSWELL. See ante, ii. 373, 426, and under Aug. 29, 1783.


Johnson's person and dress.


person was large, robust, I may say approaching to the gigantick, and grown unwieldy from corpulency. His countenance was naturally of the cast of an ancient statue, but somewhat disfigured by the scars of that evil, which, it was formerly imagined, the royal touch' could cure. He was now in his sixty-fourth year, and was become a little dull of hearing. His sight had always been somewhat weak; yet, so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his perceptions were uncommonly quick and accurate2. His head, and sometimes also his body shook with a kind of motion like the effect of a palsy: he appeared to be frequently disturbed by cramps, or convulsive contractions3, of the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance. He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair-buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio Dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute

1 See ante, i. 49. "See ante, i. 48.

'Such they appeared to me; but since the first edition, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me, 'that Dr. Johnson's extraordinary gestures were only habits, in which he indulged himself at certain times. When in company, where he was not free, or when engaged earnestly in conversation, he never gave way to such habits, which proves that they were not involuntary.' I still however think, that these gestures were involuntary; for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in the publick streets. BOSWELL. See ante, i. 166, 167.

By an Act of the 7th of George I. for encouraging the consumption of raw silk and mohair, buttons and button-holes made of cloth, serge, and other stuffs were prohibited. In 1738 a petition was presented to Parliament stating that ‘in evasion of this Act buttons and button-holes were made of horse-hair to the impoverishing of many thousands and prejudice of the woollen manufactures.' An Act was brought in to prohibit the use of horse-hair, and was only thrown out on the third reading. Parl. Hist. x. 787.


20 Johnson's prejudice against Scotland.

particulars. Every thing relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr. Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow', told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, instead of buckles. When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules have his club; and, by-and-by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and produce a good joke'.


This imperfect sketch of the COMBINATION and the form of that Wonderful Man, whom I venerated and loved while in this world, and after whom I gaze with humble hope, now that it has pleased ALMIGHTY GOD to call him to a better world, will serve to introduce to the fancy of my readers the capital object of the following journal, in the course of which I trust they will attain to a considerable degree of acquaintance with him.

His prejudice against Scotland' was announced almost as soon as he began to appear in the world of Letters. In his London, a poem, are the following nervous lines:

'For who would leave, unbrib'd, Hibernia's land?
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden fate away;
But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay.'

The truth is, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, he allowed himself to look upon all nations but his own as

1 Boswell wrote to Erskine on Dec. 8, 1761: I, James Boswell Esq., who "am happily possessed of a facility of manners"-to use the very words of Mr. Professor [Adam] Smith, which upon honour were addressed to me.' Boswell and Erskine Corres. ed. 1879, p. 26.

2 Post, Oct. 16.

"Hamlet, act iii. sc. 4.

See ante, iv. March 21, 1783. Johnson is often reproached with his dislike of the Scotch, though much of it was assumed; but no one blames Hume's dislike of the English, though it was deep and real. On Feb. 21, 1770, he wrote:-'Our Government is too perfect in point of liberty for so rude a beast as an Englishman; who is a man, a bad animal too, corrupted by above a century of licentiousness.' J. H. Burton's Hume, ii. 434. Dr. Burton writes of the English as 'a people Hume so heartily disliked.' Ib. p. 433.


Johnson a true born Englishman.'


barbarians': not only Hibernia, and Scotland, but Spain, Italy, and France, are attacked in the same poem. If he was particularly prejudiced against the Scots, it was because they were more in his way; because he thought their success in England rather exceeded the due proportion of their real merit; and because he could not but see in them that nationality which I believe no liberal-minded Scotsman will deny. He was indeed, if I may be allowed the phrase, at bottom much of a John Bull; much of a blunt true born Englishman3. There was a stratum of common clay under the rock of marble. He was voraciously fond of good eating*; and he had a great deal of that quality called humour, which gives an oiliness and a gloss to every other quality.

I am, I flatter myself, completely a citizen of the world. -In my travels through Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Corsica, France, I never felt myself from home; and

sincerely love 'every kindred and tongue and people and nation'.' I subscribe to what my late truly learned and philosophical friend Mr. Crosbie said, that the English are better animals than the Scots; they are nearer the sun; their blood is richer, and more mellow: but when I humour any of them in an outrageous contempt of Scotland, I fairly own I treat them as children. And thus I have, at some moments, found myself obliged to treat even Dr. Johnson.

To Scotland however he ventured; and he returned from it in great good humour, with his prejudices much lessened, and with very grateful feelings of the hospitality with which he was treated; as is evident from that admirable work, his Fourney to the Western Islands of Scotland, which, to my

1 See ante, iv. 17.


The term John Bull came into the English language in 1712, when Dr. Arbuthnot wrote The History of John Bull.

'Boswell in three other places so describes Johnson. See ante, i. 150, note 1.

• See ante, i. 541.

All nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.' Rev. vii. 9.


• See ante, ii. 431.



Johnson arrives at Edinburgh. [August 14.

utter astonishment, has been misapprehended, even to rancour, by many of my countrymen.

To have the company of Chambers and Scott, he delayed his journey so long, that the court of session, which rises on the eleventh of August, was broke up before he got to Edinburgh'.

On Saturday the fourteenth of August, 1773, late in the evening, I received a note from him, that he was arrived at Boyd's inn2, at the head of the Canongate. I went to him. directly. He embraced me cordially; and I exulted in the

'In Cockburn's Life of Jeffrey, i. 157, there is a description of Edinburgh, towards the close of the century, the last purely Scotch age that Scotland was destined to see. Almost the whole official state, as settled at the Union, survived; and all graced the capital, unconscious of the economical scythe which has since mowed it down. All our nobility had not then fled. The lawyers, instead of disturbing good company by professional matter, were remarkably free of this vulgarity; and being trained to take difference of opinion easily, and bconduct discussions with forbearance, were, without undue obtrusion, the most cheerful people that were to be met with. Philosophy had become indigenous in the place, and all classes, even in their gayest hours, were proud of the presence of its cultivators. And all this was still a Scotch scene. The whole country had not begun to be absorbed in the ocean of London. According to the modern rate of travelling [written in 1852] the capitals of Scotland and of England were then about 2400 miles asunder. Edinburgh was still more distant in its style and habits. It had then its own independent tastes, and ideas, and pursuits.' Scotland at this time was distinguished by the liberality of mind of its leading clergymen, which was due, according to Dr. A. Carlyle (Auto. p. 57), to the fact that the Professor of Theology under whom they had studied was dull and Dutch and prolix.' 'There was one advantage,' he says, 'attending the lectures of a dull professor-viz., that he could form no school, and the students were left entirely to themselves, and naturally formed opinions far more liberal than those they got from the Professor.'

' Chambers (Traditions of Edinburgh, ed. 1825, ii. 297) says that 'the very spot which Johnson's arm-chair occupied is pointed out by the modern possessors.' The inn was called 'The White Horse.' 'It derives its name from having been the resort of the Hanoverian faction, the White Horse being the crest of Hanover.' Murray's Guide to Scotland, ed. 1867, p. 111.


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