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1769.

The General immediately informed him that the lingua ruftica was only in Etat, 60. Sardinia.

Dr. Johnson went home with me, and drank tea till late in the night. He faid, General Paoli had the loftieft port of any man he had ever seen. He denied that military men were always the best bred men. Perfect good breeding, he obferved, confifts in having no particular mark of any profeffion, but a general elegance of manners: whereas, in a military man, you can commonly distinguish the brand of a foldier, l'homme d'epee.

Dr. Johnson fhunned to-night any difcuffion of the perplexed question of fate and free will, which I attempted to agitate: "Sir, (faid he,) we know our will is free, and there's an end of't.”

He honoured me with his company at dinner on the 16th of October, at my lodgings in Old Bond-ftreet, with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldfmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Bickerstaff, and Mr. Thomas Davies. Garrick played round him with a fond vivacity, taking hold of the breasts of his coat, and, looking up in his face with a lively archness, complimented him on the good health which he seemed then to enjoy; while the fage, fhaking his head, beheld him with a gentle complacency. One of the company not being come at the appointed hour, I propofed, as ufual upon fuch occafions, to order dinner to be ferved; adding, "Ought fix people to be kept waiting for one?" "Why yes, (anfwered Johnfon, with a delicate humanity,) if the one will fuffer more by your fitting down, than the fix will do by waiting." Goldfmith, to divert the tedious minutes, ftrutted about, bragging of his drefs, and I believe was feriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to fuch impreffions. "Come, come, (faid Garrick,) talk no more of that. You are, perhaps, the worft-eheh!"-Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on, laughing ironically, "Nay, you will always look like a gentleman; but I am talking of being well or ill dreft." Well, let me tell you, (faid Goldfmith,) when my tailor brought home my bloom-coloured coat, he faid Sir, I have a favour to beg of you. When any body afks you who made your clothes, be pleased to mention John Phielby, at the Harrow, in Water-lane." JOHNSON. Why, Sir, that was because he knew the ftrange colour would attract crouds to gaze at it, and thus they might hear of him, and fee how well he could make a coat even of fo abfurd a colour."

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After dinner, our conversation first turned upon Pope. Johnson said, his characters of men were admirably drawn, thofe of women not-fo well. He repeated to us, in his forcible melodious manner, the concluding lines of the

Dunciad

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Dunciad. While he was talking loudly in praise of those lines, one of the company ventured to say, "Too fine for fuch a poem :—a poem on what?" JOHNSON, (with a disdainful look,) "Why, on dunces. It was worth while being a dunce then. Ah, Sir, hadst thou lived in those days! It is not worth while being a dunce now, when there are no wits." Bickerstaff observed, as a peculiar circumftance, that Pope's fame was higher when he was alive than it was then. Johnfon faid, his Paftorals were poor things, though the verfification was fine. He told us, with high fatisfaction, the anecdote of Pope's inquiring who was the authour of his "London," and faying he will be foon deterré. He obferved, that in Dryden's poetry there were paffages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach. He repeated fome fine lines on love, by the former, (which I have now forgotten,) and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith said, that Pope's character of Addison fhewed a deep knowledge of the human heart. Johnson faid, that the description of the temple, in "The Mourning Bride," was the fineft poetical paffage he had ever read; he recollected none in Shakspeare equal to it.— "But, (faid Garrick, all alarmed for the god of his idolatry,') we know not the extent and variety of his powers. We are to fuppofe there are fuch paffages in his works. Shakspeare must not fuffer from the badnefs of our memories." Johnson, diverted by this enthufiaftick jealoufy, went on with greater ardour: "No, Sir; Congreve has nature," (fmiling on the tragick eagerness of Garrick ;) but compofing himself, he added, "Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole, with Shakspeare on the whole; but only maintaining that Congreve has one finer paffage than any that can be found in Shakspeare. Sir, a man may have no more than ten guineas in the world, but he may have those ten guineas in one piece; and fo may have a finer piece than a man who has ten thousand pounds: but then he has only one tenguinea piece. What I mean is, that you can fhew me no paffage where there is fimply a defcription of material objects, without any intermixture of moral notions, which produces fuch an effect." Mr. Murphy mentioned Shakspeare's description of the night before the battle of Agincourt; but it was observed, it had men in it. Mr. Davies fuggefted the fpeech of Juliet, in which she figures herself awaking in the tomb of her ancestors. Sorne one mentioned the description of Dover Cliff. JOHNSON. "No, Sir; it should be all precipice, all vacuum. The crows impede your fall. The diminished appearance of the boats, and other circumftances, are all very good defcription; but do not imprefs the mind at once with the horrible idea of immense height. The impreffion is divided; you pafs on by computation, from one stage of

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1769.

Etat. 60.

the

1769.

Etat. 60.

the tremendous fpace to another. Had the girl in "The Mourning Bride" faid, fhe could not cast her shoe to the top of one of the pillars in the temple, it would not have aided the idea, but weakened it."

Talking of a Barrister who had a bad utterance, fome one, (to rouse Johnson,) wickedly faid, that he was unfortunate in not having been taught oratory by Sheridan. JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, if he had been taught by Sheridan, he would have cleared the room." GARRICK. "Sheridan has too much vanity to be a good man." We fhall now fee Johnson's mode of defending a man; taking him into his own hands, and difcriminating: JOHNSON. "No, Sir. There is, to be fure, in Sheridan, fomething to reprehend, and every thing to laugh at; but, Sir, he is not a bad man. No, Sir; were mankind to be divided into good and bad, he would stand confiderably within the ranks of good. And, Sir, it must be allowed that Sheridan excels in plain declamation, though he can exhibit no character."

I fhould, perhaps, have fuppreffed this difquifition concerning a perfon of whose merit and worth I think with respect, had he not attacked Johnson so outrageously in his Life of Swift, and, at the fame time, treated us his admirers as a set of pigmies. He who has provoked the lafh of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it.

Mrs. Montague, a lady diftinguished for having written an Effay on Shakspeare, being mentioned ;-REYNOLDS. "I think that effay does her honour." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; it does her honour, but it would do nobody elfe honour. I have, indeed, not read it all. But when I take up the end of a web, and find it packthread, I do not expect, by looking further, to find embroidery. Sir, I will venture to fay, there is not one sentence of true criticism in her book." GARRICK. "But, Sir, furely it fhews how much Voltaire has mistaken Shakspeare, which nobody else has done." JOHNSON. "Sir, nobody elfe has thought it worth while. And what merit is there in that? You may as well praise a schoolmaster for whipping a boy who has conftrued ill. No, Sir, there is no real criticism in it; none fhewing the beauty of thought, as formed on the workings of the human heart."

The admirers of this Effay may be offended at the flighting manner in which Johnson spoke of it; but let it be remembered, that he gave his honest opinion,

+ Of whom I acknowledge myself to be one, confidering it as a piece of the fecondary or comparative fpecies of criticifm, and not of that profound fpecies which alone Dr. Johnson would allow to be "real criticism." It is, befides, clearly and elegantly expreffed, and has done effectually what it profeffed to do, namely, vindicated Shakspeare from the mifreprefentations of Voltaire ;

and

opinion, unbiaffed by any prejudice, or any proud jealousy of a woman intruding herself into the chair of criticism; for Sir Joshua Reynolds has told Etat. 60. me, that when the Effay first came out, and it was not known who had written it, Johnson wondered how Sir Joshua could like it. At this time Sir Joshua himself had received no information concerning the authour, except being affured by one of our most eminent literati, that it was clear its authour did not know the Greek tragedies in the original. One day at Sir Joshua's table, when it was related that Mrs. Montague, in an excefs of compliment to the authour of a modern tragedy, had exclaimed, "I tremble for Shakspeare ;' for his rival, and Mrs. Johnson faid, "When Shakspeare has got

Montague for his defender, he is in a poor ftate indeed."

Johnfon proceeded : "The Scotchman has taken the right method in his 'Elements of Criticifm.' I do not mean that he has taught us any thing; MURPHY." He feems to have but he has told us old things in a new way."

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read a great deal of French criticism, and wants to make it his own; as if he
had been for years anatomifing the heart of man, and peeping into every
cranny of it." GOLDSMITH. "It is easier to write that book, than to read it."
JOHNSON. "We have an example of true criticism in Burke's Effay on
the Sublime and Beautiful;' and, if I recollect, there is also Du Bos; and
Bouhours, who fhews all beauty to depend on truth. There is no great merit
in telling how many plays have ghosts in them, and how this ghost is better
than that. You must fhew how terrour is impreffed on the human heart.-In
the description of night in Macbeth, the beetle and the bat detract from the
general idea of darkness,-infpiffated gloom."
"This petitioning is a new mode of
Politicks being mentioned, he faid,
I will undertake to get peti-
diftreffing government, and a mighty eafy one.
tions either against quarter guineas or half guineas, with the help of a little
hot wine. There must be no yielding to encourage this. The object is not
important enough. We are not to blow up half a dozen palaces, because
one cottage is burning."

The converfation then took another turn. JOHNSON. "It is amazing what ignorance of certain points one fometimes finds in men of eminence. A wit about town, who wrote Latin bawdy verfes, asked me, how it happened that England and Scotland, which were once two kingdoms, were now one :—and Sir

and confidering how many young people were mifled by his witty, though false observations, Mrs. Montague's Effay was of fervice to Shakspeare with a certain class of readers, and is, therefore, entitled to praife. Johnson, I am affured, allowed the merit which I have stated, saying, (with reference to Voltaire,) "it is conclufive ad hominem.”

Fletcher

1769.

Fletcher Norton did not feem to know that there were fuch publications as the Etat. 60. Reviews."

"The ballad of Hardyknute has no great merit, if it be really ancient. People talk of nature. But mere obvious nature may be exhibited with very little power of mind." On Thursday, October 19, I paffed the evening with him at his house. He advised me to complete a Dictionary of words peculiar to Scotland, of which I fhewed him a fpecimen. "Sir, (faid he,) Ray has made a collection of north-country words. By collecting thofe of your country, you will do a useful thing towards the hiftory of the language." He bade me alfo go. on with collections which I was making upon the antiquities of Scotland. "Make a large book; a folio." BOSWELL. "But of what use will it be, Sir?" JOHNSON. "Never mind the use; do it."

I complained that he had not mentioned Garrick in his Preface to Shakspeare; and asked him if he did not admire him. JOHNSON. "Yes, as a poor player, who frets and ftruts his hour upon the ftage;-as a fhadow." BOSWELL. "But has he not brought Shakspeare into notice?" JOHNSON. "Sir, to allow that, would be to lampoon the age. Many of Shakspeare's plays are the worfe for being acted: Macbeth, for inftance." Boswell. "What, Sir, is nothing gained by decoration and action? Indeed, I do wish that you had mentioned Garrick." JOHNSON. "My dear Sir, had I mentioned him, I must have mentioned many more: Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Cibber,-nay, and Mr. Cibber too; he too altered Shakspeare." BOSWELL. "You have read his apology, Sir?" JOHNSON. "Yes, it is very entertaining. But as for Cibber himself, taking from his conversation all that he ought not to have faid, he was a poor creature. I remember when he brought me one of his Odes to have my opinion of it, I could not bear fuch nonsense, and would not let him read it to the end; fo little refpect had I for that great man (laughing). Yet I remember Richardson wondering that I could treat him with familiarity."

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I mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn, two days before, and that none of them feemed to be under any concern. JOHNSON. "Most of them, Sir, have never thought at all." BOSWELL." But is not the fear of death natural to man? JOHNSON. "So much fo, Sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it." He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the aweful hour of his own diffolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occafion: "I know not (faid he,) whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between GoD and myself.”

Talking

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