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Burke an extraordinary man.
leave off. BOSWELL. Yet he can listen.' JOHNSON. 'No: I cannot say he is good at that'. So desirous is he to talk, that, if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end. Burke, Sir, is such a man, that if you met him for the first 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 judgment,
cannot be easily enumerated, that overlook his other merits, and to it is always dangerous to detach a suppose that wit is his chief and witty saying from the group to which most prominent excellence; when it belongs, and to set it before the in fact it is only one of the many eye of the spectator, divested of talents that he possesses, which are those concomitant circumstances, so various and extraordinary, that which gave it animation, mellow- it is very difficult to ascertain preness, and relief. I ventured, how- cisely the rank and value of each. ever, at all hazards, to put down the BOSWELL. For Malone's share in first instances that occurred to me, this note, see ante, iii. 323, note 2. as proofs of Mr. Burke's lively and For Burke's Economical Reform brilliant fancy ; but am very sensible Bill, which was brought in on Feb. that his numerous friends could have 11, 1780, see Prior's Burke, p. 184. suggested many of a superior quality. For Blue Stocking, see ante, iv. 108. Indeed, the being in company with The 'tall friend of ours' was Mr. him, for a single day, is sufficient to Langton (ante, i. 336). For Frankshew that what I have asserted is lin's definition, see ante, iii. 245, and well founded; and it was only neces- for Burke's classical pun, ib. p. 323. sary to have appealed to all who know For Burke's “talent of wit,' see ante, him intimately, for a complete re- i. 453, iii. 323, iv. May 15, 1784, and futation of the heterodox opinion post, Sept. 15. entertained by Dr. Johnson on this See ante, iv. 27, where Burke subject. He allowed Mr. Burke, as said :-' It is enough for me to have the reader will find hereafter [post, rung the bell to him [Johnson).' Sept. 15 and 30), to be a man of 2 See ante, vol. iv, May 15, 1784. consummate and unrivalled abilities 3 Prior (Life of Burke, pp. 31, 36) in every light except that now under says that “from the first his desticonsideration ; and the variety of nation was the Bar. His name was his allusions, and splendour of his entered at the Middle Temple in imagery, have made such an impres- 1747, but he was never called. Why sion on all the rest of the world, he gave up the profession his biograthat superficial observers are apt to pher cannot tell.
A question concerning genius.
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 (smiling ;) that he believed he sincerely meant well, but had a mixture of politicks and ostentation : whereas Wesley thought of religion only? ROBERTSON said,
See ante, ii. 437, note 2.
has, I do believe, “turned many ? See ante, i. 78, note 2.
from darkness into light, and from That cannot be said now, after the power of Satan to the living the flagrant part which Mr. John GOD' [Acts, xxvi. 18]. BOSWELL. Wesley took against our American Wesley wrote on Nov. II, 1775 brethren, when, in his own name, (Journal, iv. 56), 'I made some adhe threw amongst his enthusiastick ditions to the Calm Address to our flock, the very individual combusti- American Colonies. Need any one bles of Dr. Johnson's Taxation no ask from what motive this was Tyranny ; and after the intolerant wrote? Let him look round ; Engspirit which he manifested against land is in a flame! a Aame of our fellow-christians of the Roman malice and rage against the King, Catholick Communion, for which that and almost all that are in authority able champion, Father O'Leary, has under him.
I labour to put
out given him so hearty a drubbing. this flame.' He wrote a few days But I should think myself very un- later : - ' As to reviewers, newsworthy, if I did not at the same writers, London Magazines, and all time acknowledge Mr. John Wes- that kind of gentlemen, they beley's merit, as a veteran Soldier of have just as I expected they would. Jesus Christ' [2 Timothy, ii. 3], who And let them lick up Mr. Toplady's
Burke's maxim of sticking to a party. (August 15.
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 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
There, again, was a mind like a hammer.' Dr. Johnson now said, a certain eminent political friend of our's ? 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 disapprove 3.' spittlestill; a champion worthy of their mind as yours may justly confirm cause.' Journal, p. 58. In a letter me in my own opinion. What effect published in Jan. 1780, he said :-'I my paper has upon the public, I insist upon it, that no government, know not; but I have no reason not Roman Catholic, ought to tole- to be discouraged. The lecturer rate men of the Roman Catholic was surely in the right, who, though persuasion. They ought not to be he saw his audience slinking away, tolerated by any government, Pro- refused to quit the chair while Plato testant, Mahometan, or Pagan. To staid.' this the Rev. Arthur O'Leary re- ''Powerful preacher as he was,' plied with great wit and force, in writes Southey, he had neither a pamphlet entitled, Remarks on the strength nor acuteness of intellect, Rev. Mr. Wesley's Letters. Dublin, and his written compositions are 1780. Wesley (Journal, iv. 365) nearly worthless.' Southey's Wesley, mentions meeting O'Leary, and
See ante, ii. 79. says :—He seems not to be want- 2 Mr. Burke. See ante, ii. 222, ing either in sense or learning.' 285, note 3, and iii. 45. Johnson wrote to Wesley on Feb. 6, If due attention were paid to this 1776 (Croker's Boswell, p. 475), 'I observation, there would be more have thanks to return you for the virtue, even in politicks. What Dr. addition of your important suffrage Johnson justly condemned, has, I am to my argument on the American
sorry to say, greatly increased in the question. To have gained such a present reign. At the distance of
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 friends
four years from this conversation, common Lord the King was to be 21st February, 1777, My Lord Arch- preserved inviolate, is a striking bishop of York, in his 'sermon be- proof to me, either that 'He who fore the Society for the Propagation sitteth in Heaven' (Psalms, ii. 4] of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,' thus scorns the loftiness of human pride, indignantly describes the then state -or that the evil spirit, whose of parties :
personal existence I strongly believe, Parties once had a principle be- and even in this age am confirmed longing to them, absurd perhaps, in that belief by a Fell, nay, by a and indefensible, but still carrying a Hurd, has more power than some notion of duty, by which honest choose to allow, BOSWELL. Horace minds might easily be caught. Walpole writing on June 10, 1778,
But there are now combinations after censuring Robertson for sneerof individuals, who, instead of being ing at Las Casas, continues :-—'Could the sons and servants of the com- Archbishop Markham in a Sermon munity, make a league for advancing before the Society for the Propagation their private interests. It is their of the Gospel by fire and sword paint business to hold high the notion of charity in more contemptuous terms? political honour. I believe and It is a Christian age.' Letters, vii. 81. trust, it is not injurious to say, that It was Archbishop Markham to such a bond is no better than that by whom Johnson made the famous bow; which the lowest and wickedest com- ante, vol. iv, just before April 10, 1783. binations are held together; and John Fell published in 1779 Demothat it denotes the last stage of niacs; an Enquiry into the Heathen political depravity.'
and Scripture Doctrine of Daemons. To find a thought, which just For Hurd see ante, under June 9, 1784. shewed itself to us from the mind of * See Forster's Essays, ii. 304-9. Johnson, thus appearing again at Mr. Forster often quotes Cooke in such a distance of time, and without his Life of Goldsmith. He describes any communication between them, him (i. 58) as 'a young Irish law enlarged to full growth in the mind student who had chambers near of Markham, is a curious object of Goldsmith in the temple.' Goldphilosophical contemplation. That smith did not reside in the temple two such great and luminous minds till 1763 (ib. p. 336), and Cooke was should have been so dark in one old enough to have published his corner,—that they should have held Hesiod in 1728, and to have found a it to be "Wicked rebellion in the place in The Dunciad (ii. 138). See British subjects established in Elwin and Courthope's Pope, x. 212, America, to resist the abject condition for his correspondence with Pope. of holding all their property at the 2 It may be observed, that I somemercy of British subjects remaining times call my great friend, Mr. at home, while their allegiance to our Johnson, sometimes Dr. Johnson :
Johnson's contempt of tragick acting. [August 16.
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 had not then published his Annals of Scotland 3: JOHNSON. 'I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect.
though he had at this time a doctor's opinion that by a proper mixture of degree from Trinity College, Dublin. asses, bulls, turkeys, geese, and The University of Oxford afterwards tragedians a noise might be proconferred it upon him by a diploma, cured equally horrid with the warin very honourable terms.
It was cry.' See ante, ii. 92. some time before I could bring my- 2 Tom Jones, Bk. xvi. chap. 5. self to call him Doctor ; but, as he Mme. Necker in a letter to Garrick has been long known by that title, I said : - Nos acteurs se métamorshall give it to him in the rest of this phosent assez bien, mais Monsieur Journal. BOSWELL. See ante, i. 488, Garrick fait autre chose ; il nous note 3, and ii. 332, note 1.
métamorphose tous dans le caractère ' In The Idler, No. viii, Johnson qu'il a revêtu ; nous sommes remplis has the following fling at tragedians. de terreur avec Hamlet,'&c. Garrick He had mentioned the terror struck Corres. ii. 627. into our soldiers by the Indian war- 3 See ante, i. 432, and ii. 278. cry, and he continues :-'I am of