James Boswell.

Boswell's Life of Johnson, including Boswell's Journal of a tour of the Hebrides, and Johnson's Diary of A journal into North Wales (Volume 4) online

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did not choose to figure in them.' Fox could not have known what
was not the fact. When Boswell was by, he had reason for his si-
lence ; but otherwise he might have spoken out. ' Mr. Fox,' writes
Mackintosh {Life, i. 322) ' united, in a most remarkable degree, the
seemingly repugnant characters of the mildest of men and the most
vehement of orators. In private life he was so averse from parade
and dogmatism as to be somewhat inactive in conversation.' Gibbon
{Misc. Works, i. 283) tells how Fox spent a day with him at Lausanne :
— ' Perhaps it never can happen again, that I should enjoy him as I
did that day, alone from ten in the morning till ten at night. Our
conversation never flagged a moment.' ' In London mixed society,'
said Rogers ( Tabic -Talk, p. 74), ' Fox conversed little ; but at his own
house in the country, with his intimate friends, he would talk on for
ever, with all the openness and simplicity of a child.'


Aetat. 74.] No beauty but in utility. 193

he does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because
his mind is full'.'

He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaint-
ance : ' **-5«->^**** ' is a good man, Sir; but he is a vain man
and a liar. He, however, only tells lies of vanity ; of vic-
tories, for instance, in conversation, which never happened.'
This alluded to a story which I had repeated from that
gentleman, to entertain Johnson with its wild bravado :
' This Johnson, Sir, (said he,) whom you are all afraid of
will shrink, if you come close to him in argument and roar
as loud as he. He once maintained the paradox, that there
is no beauty but in utility'. " Sir, (said I,) what say you
to the peacock's tail, which is one of the most beautiful
objects in nature, but would have as much utility if its
feathers were all of one colour." He felt what I thus pro-
duced, and had recourse to his usual expedient, ridicule ;
exclaiming, " A peacock has a tail, and a fox has a tail ;"
and then he burst out into a laugh. " Well, Sir, (said I,
with a strong voice, looking him full in the face,) you have
unkennelled your fox; pursue him if you dare." He had
not a word to say, Sir.' Johnson told me, that this was
a fiction from beginning to end*.

After musing for some time, he said, ' I wonder how I

• See ante, ii. 515.

" Most likely ' Old Mr. Sheridan.'
' See a7ite, ii. 190.

* Were I to insert all the stories which have been told of contests
boldly maintained with him, imaginary victories obtained over him,
of reducing him to silence, and of making him own that his antago-
nist had the better of him in argument, my volumes would swell to
an immoderate size. One instance, I fmd, has circulated both in con-
versation and in print ; that when he would not allow the Scotch
writers to have merit, the late Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, asserted, that
he could name one Scotch writer, whom Dr. Johnson himself would
allow to have written better than any man of the age ; and upon John-
son's asking who it was, answered, ' Lord Bute, when he signed the
warrant for your pension." Upon which Johnson, struck with the
repartee, acknowledged that this was true. When 1 mentioned it to
Johnson, ' Sir, (said he,) if Rose said this, I never heard it.' Boswell.

IV. — 13 should

194 Antipathy to the Scotch. [a. d. 1783.

should have any enemies ; for I do harm to nobody'.'
BOSWELL. * In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to
recollect, that you set out with attacking the Scotch ; so
you got a whole nation for your enemies.' JOHNSON. 'Why,
I own, that by my definition of oats' I meant to vex them.'
BoswELL. ' Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of your antip-
athy to the Scotch.' JOHNSON. ' I cannot. Sir'.' BoswELL.
'Old Mr. Sheridan says, it was because they sold Charles

' This reflection was very natural in a man of a good heart, who
was not conscious of any ill-will to mankind, though the sharp say-
ings which were sometimes produced by his discrimination and vivac-
ity, which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often
remembered with resentment. Boswell. When, three months later
on, he was struck with palsy, he wrote to Mrs. Thrale : — ' I have in
this still scene of life great comfort in reflecting that I have given
very few reason to hate me. I hope scarcely any man has known me
closely but for his benefit, or cursorily but to his innocent entertain-
ment. Tell me, you that know me best, whether this be true, that
according to your answer I may continue my practice, or try to mend
it.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 287. See post, May 19, 1784. Passages such as
the two following might have shewn him why he had enemies. ' For
roughness, it is a needless cause of discontent ; severity breedeth fear,
but roughness breedeth hate.' Bacon's Essays, No. xi. ' 'Tis possible
that men may be as oppressive by their parts as their power.' T//e
Government of the Tongue, sect. vii. See ante, i. 449, note 2.

" ' A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in
Scotland supports the people.' See ante, i. 341. Stockdale records
{Memoirs, ii. 191) that he heard a Scotch lady, after quoting this defi-
nition, say to Johnson, ' I can assure you that in Scotland we give
oats to our horses as well as you do to yours in England.' He re-
plied : — ' I am very glad. Madam, to find that you treat your horses as
well as you treat yourselves.'

' Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote : — ' The prejudices he had to countries
did not extend to individuals. The chief prejudice in which he in-
dulged himself was against Scotland, though he had the most cordial
friendship with individuals. This he used to vindicate as a duty. . . .
Against the Irish he entertained no prejudice ; he thought they united
themselves very well with us ; but the Scotch, when in England,
united and made a party by employing only Scotch servants and
Scotch tradesmen. He held it right for Englishmen to oppose a par-
ty against them.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 460. See ante, ii. 278, 350, and
Boswell 's Hebrides, post, v. 21.


Aetat. 74.] A yi unvtily patient. 195

the First.' JOHNSON. ' Then, Sir, old Mr. Sheridan has
found out a very good reason.'

Surely the most obstinate and sulky nationality, the most
determined aversion to this great and good man, must be
cured, when he is seen thus playing with one of his prej-
udices, of which he candidly admitted that he could not
tell the reason. It was, however, probably owing to his
having had in his view the worst part of the Scottish nation,
the needy adventurers, many of whom he thought were
advanced above their merits by means which he did not
approve. Had he in his early life been in Scotland, and
seen the worthy, sensible, independent gentlemen, who live
rationally and hospitably at home, he never could have en-
tertained such unfavourable and unjust notions of his fel-
low-subjects. And accordingly we find, that when he did
visit Scotland, in the latter period of his life, he was fully
sensible of all that it deserved, as I have already pointed
out, when speaking of his Journey to the Western Islands^.

Next day, Saturday, March 22, I found him still at Mrs.
Thrale's, but he told me that he was to go to his own house
in the afternoon^ He was better, but I perceived he was
but an unruly patient, for Sir Lucas Pepys, who visited him,
while I was with him said, ' If you were tractable. Sir, I
should prescribe for you.'

I related to him a remark which a respectable friend had
made to me, upon the then state of Government, when those
who had been long in opposition had attained to power, as
it was supposed, against the inclination of the Sovereign'.

' See a7ite, ii. 343.

'■' Mrs. Piozzi {Afire, p. 85) says that ' Dr. Johnson, commonly spend-
ing the middle of the week at our house, kept his numerous family in
Fleet-street upon a settled allowance ; but returned to them every
Saturday to give them three good dinners and his company, before
he came back to us on the Monday night.'

^ Lord North's Ministry lasted from 1770, to March, 1782. It was
followed by the Rockingham Ministry, and the Shelburne Ministry,
which in its turn was at this very time giving way to the Coalition
Ministry, to be followed ver)^ soon by the Pitt Ministry.

' You

196 A visit from Goicj^aC Oglethorpe. [''•'»• i~83.

'You need not be uneasy, (said this gentleman,) about the
King. He laughs at them all ; he plays them one against
another.' JOHNSON. ' Don't think so, Sir. The King is as
much oppressed as a man can be. If he plays them one
against another, he zvins nothing.'

I had paid a visit to General Oglethorpe in the morn-
ing, and was told by him that Dr. Johnson saw company
on Saturday evenings, and he would meet me at John-
son's that night. When I mentioned this to Johnson, not
doubting that it would please him, as he had a great value
for Oglethorpe, the fretfulness of his disease unexpectedly
shewed itself ; his anger suddenly kindled, and he said, with
vehemence, ' Did not you tell him not to come? Am I
to be hunted in this manner?' I satisfied him that I could
not divine that the visit would not be convenient, and that
I certainly could not take it upon me of my own accord to
forbid the General.

I found Dr. Johnson in the evening in Mrs. Williams's
room, at tea and coffee with her and Mrs. Desmoulins, who
were also both ill ; it was a sad scene, and he was not in
very good humour. He said of a performance that had
lately come out, ' Sir, if you should search all the madhouses
in England, you would not find ten men who would write
so, and think it sense.'

I was glad when General Oglethorpe's arrival was an-
nounced, and we left the ladies. Dr. Johnson attended him
in the parlour, and was as courteous as ever. The General
said he was busy reading the writers of the middle age.
Johnson said they were very curious. OGLETHORPE. ' The
House of Commons has usurped the power of the nation's
money, and used it tyrannically. Government is now carried
on by corrupt influence, instead of the inherent right in the
King.' Johnson. ' Sir, the want of inherent right in the
King occasions all this disturbance. What we did at the
Revolution was necessary : but it broke our constitution'.
Oglethorpe. ' My father did not think it necessar\'.'

' I have, in my Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides [p. 200, Sept. 13],


Aetat. 74.J Exaggeration. 197

On Sunday, March 23, I breakfasted with Dr. Johnson,
who seemed much reheved, having taken opium the night
before. He however protested against it, as a remedy that
should be given with the utmost reluctance, and only in
extreme necessity. I mentioned how commonly it was used
in Turkey, and that therefore it could not be so pernicious
as he apprehended. He grew warm and said, ' Turks take
opium, and Christians take opium ; but Russel, in his Ac-
count of Alcppo\ tells us, that it is as disgraceful in Turkey
to take too much opium, as it is with us to get drunk. Sir,
it is amazing how things are exaggerated. A gentleman
was lately telling in a company where I was present, that
in France as soon as a man of fashion marries, he takes an
opera girl into keeping ; and this he mentioned as a gen-
eral custom. " Pray, Sir, (said I,) how many opera girls may
there be?" He answered, " About fourscore." "Well then,
Sir, (said I,) you see there can be no more than fourscore
men of fashion who can do this^" '

Mrs. Desmoulins made tea ; and she and I talked before
him upon a topick which he had once borne patiently from
me when we were by ourselves^ — his not complaining of
the world, because he was not called to some great office,
nor had attained to great wealth. He flew into a violent

fully expressed my sentiments upon this subject. The Revolution
was necessary, but not a subject {or glory ; because it for a long time
blasted the generous feelings of Loyalty. And now, when by the
benignant effect of time the present Royal Family are established in
our affections, how unwise it is to revive by celebrations the memory
of a shock, which it would surely have been better that our constitu-
tion had not required. Boswell. See ante, iii. 4, and iv. 48, note 2.

' Johnson reviewed this book in 1756. See aJite, i. 357.

" Johnson, four months later, wrote to one of Mrs. Thrale's daugh-
ters: — 'Never think, my sweet, that you have arithmetick enough;
when you have exhausted your master, buy books. ... A thousand
stories which the ignorant tell and believe die away at once when the
computist takes them in his gripe." Pioszi Letters, ii. 296. See post.
April 18, 1783.

' See anie.'iw. 135; also iii. 352, where he bore the same topic im-
patiently when with Dr. Scott.


198 Complaints of the world unjust, [a.d. 1783.

passion, I confess with some justice, and commanded us to
have done. ' Nobody, (said he,) has a right to talk in this
manner, to bring before a man his own character, and the
events of his life, when he does not choose it should be
done. I never have sought the world ; the world was not
to seek me. It is rather wonderful that so much has been
done for me. All the complaints which arc made of the
world are unjust'. I never knew a man of merit neglected* :
it was generally by his own fault that he failed of success.
A man may hide his head in a hole : he may go into the
country, and publish a book now and then, which nobody
reads, and then complain he is neglectedl There is no rea-
son why any person should exert himself for a man who
has written a good book : he has not written it for any
individual. I may as well make a present to the postman
who brings me a letter. When patronage was limited, an
authour expected to find a Maecenas, and complained if he
did not find one. Why should he complain ? This Maecenas
has others as good as he, or others who have got the start
of him.' BOSWELL. ' But surely. Sir, you will allow that there
are men of merit at the bar, who never get practice.' JOHN-
SON. ' Sir, you are sure that practice is got from an opin-
ion that the person employed deserves it best ; so that if
a man of merit at the bar does not get practice, it is from
errour, not from injustice. He is not neglected. A horse
that is brought to market may not be bought, though he
is a very good horse : but that is from ignorance, not from

There was in this discourse much novelty, ingenuity, and
discrimination, such as is seldom to be found. Yet I cannot

' See ante, ii. 409.

' ' See nations, slowly wise and meanly just,

To buried merit raise the tardy bust.'

Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes.
' He was, perhaps, thinking of Markland. See ante, iv. 185, note 5.
* ' Dr. Johnson,' writes Mrs. Piozzi, ' was no complainer of ill-usage.
I never heard him even lament the disregard shown to Irene! Piozzi
Letters, \\. ■^^6. See a«/^, i. 231.


Aetat. T4.j The right employme7it of wealth. 199

help thinking that men of merit, who have no success in
life, may be forgiven for lamenting, if they are not allowed
to complain. They may consider it as hard that their
merit should not have its suitable distinction. Though
there is no intentional injustice towards them on the part
of the world, their merit not having been perceived, they
may yet repine against fortune, or fate, or by whatever
name they choose to call the supposed mythological power
of Destiny. It has, however, occurred to me, as a consola-
tory thought, that men of merit should consider thus: —
How much harder would it be if the same persons had
both all the merit and all the prosperity. Would not this
be a miserable distribution for the poor dunces? Would
men of merit exchange their intellectual superiority, and
the enjoyments arising from it, for external distinction and
the pleasures of wealth? If they would not, let them not
envy others, who are poor where they are rich, a compensa-
tion which is made to them. Let them look inwards and
be satisfied ; recollecting with conscious pride what Virgil
finely says of the Corycins Senex, and which I have, in an-
other place', with truth and sincerity applied to Mr. Burke: —

'' Regiini cequabat opes animis'.'

On the subject of the right employment of wealth, John-
son observed, 'A man cannot make a bad use of his money,
so far as regards Society, if he does not hoard it ; for if he
either spends it or lends it out. Society has the benefit. It
is in general better to spend money than to give it away ;
for industry is more promoted by spending money than by
giving it away. A man who spends his money is sure he is

' Letter to the People of Scotland against the attempt to dimin-
ish the number of the Lords of Session, 17S5. Boswell. 'By Mr.
Burke's removal from office the King's administration was deprived
of the assistance of that affluent mind, which is so universally rich
that, as long as British literature and British politicks shall endure,
it will be said of Edmund Bi"-ke, Regjon eqnahat \_sic\ opes animis.'
p. 71.

* Georgics, iv. 132.


200 Lord Southwell, [a.d. 1783.

doing good with it : he is not so sure when he gives it away.
A man who spends ten thousand a year will do more good
than a man who spends two thousand and gives away eight'.'

In the evening I came to him again. He was somewhat
fretful from his illness. A gentleman' asked him, whether
he had been abroad to-day. ' Don't talk so childishly, (said
he.) You may as well ask if I hanged myself to-day.' I
mentioned politicks. JOHNSON. ' Sir, I'd as soon have a
man to break my bones as talk to me of publick affairs, in-
ternal or external. I have lived to see things all as bad as
they can be.'

Having mentioned his friend the second Lord Southwell,
he said, ' Lord Southwell was the highest-bred man without
insolence that I ever was in company with ; the most quali-
tied I ever saw. Lord Orrery^ was not dignified : Lord
Chesterfield was, but he was insolent\ Lord **■>:■■"****:•!■* is
a man of coarse manners, but a man of abilities and infor-
mation. I don't say he is a man I would set at the head
of a nation, though perhaps he may be as good as the next
Prime Minister that comes ; but he is a man to be at the
head of a Club ; I don't say our Club ; for there's no such
Club.' BOSWELL. ' But, Sir, was he not once a factious
man ?' Johnson. ' O yes. Sir ; as factious a fellow as could
be found : one who was for sinking us all into the mob'.'

* See ante, iii. 65, note i. * Very likely Boswell.
' See Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 22.

* Johnson had said : — ' Lord Chesterfield is the proudest man this
day existing.' See ante, i. 308.

' Lord Shelburne. At this time he was merely holding office till a
new Ministry was formed. On April 5 he was succeeded by the Duke
of Portland. His 'coarse manners' were due to a neglected child-
hood. In the fragment of his Autobiography he describes ' the do-
mestic brutality and ill-usage he experienced at home,' in the South
of Ireland. ' It cost me,' he continues, ' more to unlearn the habits,
manners, and principles which I then imbibed, than would have served
to qualify me for any role whatever through life.' Fitzmaurice's Shel-
burne, i. 12, 16.

* Bentham, it is reported, said of him that ' alone of his own time,
he was a " Minister who did not fear the people." ' lb. iii. 572.


Aetat. 74.J Goldsmith, Shclbtirtie, and Malagrida. 201

BOSWELL. ' How then, Sir, did he get into favour with the
King?' Johnson. 'Because, Sir, I suppose he promised
the King to do whatever the King pleased.'

He said, ' Goldsmith's blundering speech to Lord Shel-
burne, which has been so often mentioned, and which he
really did make to him, was only a blunder in emphasis :
" I wonder they should call your Lordship Malagridd, for
Malagrida was a very good man ;" meant, I wonder they
should use Malagrida as a term of reproach\'

' Malagrida, a Jesuit, was put to death at Lisbon in 1761, nominally
on a charge of heresy, but in reality on a suspicion of his having sanc-
tioned, as confessor to one of the conspirators, an attempt to assas-
sinate King Joseph of Portugal. Voltaire, Siccle de Louis XV, ch.
xxxviii. ' His name,' writes Wraxall {Mcmotrs, ed. 1815, i. 67), ' is be-
come proverbial among us to express duplicity.' It was first applied
to Lord Shelburne in a squib attributed to Wilkes, which contained a
vision of a masquerade. The writer, after describing him as masquer-
ading as ' the heir apparent of Loyola and all the College,' continues :
— 'A little more of the devil, my Lord, if you please, about the eye-
brows; that's enough, a perfect Malagrida, I protest.' Fitzmaurice's
Shelburne, ii. 164. 'George IIL habitually spoke of Shelburne as
"Malagrida," and the "Jesuit of Berkeley Square.'" lb. iii. 8. The
charge of duplicity was first made against Shelburne on the retire-
ment of Fox (the first Lord Holland) in 1763. • It was the tradition
of Holland House that Bute justified the conduct of Shelburne, by
telling Fox that it was " a pious fraud." " I can see the fraud plainly
enough," is said to have been Fox's retort, " but where is the piety ?" '
Jb. i. 226. Any one who has examined Reynolds's picture of Shel-
burne, especially 'about the eyebrows," at once sees how the name of
Jesuit was given.

" Beauclerk wrote to Lord Charlemont on Nov. 20, 1773: — 'Gold-
smith the other day put a paragraph into the newspapers in praise of
Lord Mayor Townshend. [Shelburne supported Townshend in op-
position to Wilkes in the election of the Lord Mayor. Fitzmaurice's
Shelburne, ii. 287.] The same night we happened to sit next to Lord
Shelburne at Drury Lane. I mentioned the circumstance of the para-
graph to him ; he said to Goldsmith that he hoped that he had men-
tioned nothing about Malagrida in it. " Do you know," answered
Goldsmith, " that I never could conceive the reason why they call you
Malagrida, /i^r Malagrida was a very good sort of man." You see
plainly what he meant to say, but that happy turn of expression is



202 Crabbes Village. [a.d. i783.

Soon after this time I had an opportunity of seeing, by
means of one of his friends', a proof that his talents, as well
as his obliging service to authours, w^ere ready as ever. He
had revised The Village^ an admirable poem, by the Rev-
erend Mr. Crabbe. Its sentiments as to the false notions
of rustick happiness and rustick virtue were quite congenial
with his own' ; and he had taken the trouble not only to
suggest slight corrections and variations, but to furnish
some lines, when he thought he could give the writer's
meaning better than in the words of the manuscript\

peculiar to himself. Mr. Walpole says that this story is a picture of

Goldsmith's whole life.' Life of Charlemont, i. 344.

' Most likely Reynolds, who introduced Crabbe to Johnson. Crabbe 's

Works, ed. 1834, ii. 11.

" ' I paint the cot,

As truth will paint it, and as Bards will not.

Nor you, ye Poor, of lettered scorn complain.

To you the smoothest song is smooth in vain ;

O'ercome by labour, and bowed down by time,

Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme .''

Can poets soothe you, when you pine for bread,

By winding myrtles round your ruined shed ?

Can their light tales your weighty griefs o'erpower,

Or glad with airy mirth the toilsome hour?'

The Village, book i.
See Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 6.

^ I shall give an instance, marking the original by Roman, and

Johnson's substitution in Italick characters : —

' In fairer scenes, where peaceful pleasures spring,

Tityrus, the pride of Mantuan swains, might sing :

But charmed by him, or smitten with his views,

Shall modern poets court the Mantuan muse?

From Truth and Nature shall we widely stray,

Where Fancy leads, or Virgil led the way?'

'On Afi/ieio's hanks, in Ca-sar's bounteous reign.

If Tityrus found the golden age again.

Must sleepy bards the flattering dream prolong,

Mechanick echoes of the Mantuan song?

From Truth and Nature shall we widely stray.

Where Virgil, not where Fancy, leads the way?'

Here we find Johnson's poetical and critical powers undiminished.

I must, however, observe, that the aids he gave to this poem, as to


Aetat. 74.] Dr. Brocklesby, 203

On Sunday, March 30, I found him at home in the even-
ing, and had the pleasure to meet with Dr. Brocklesby',
whose reading, and knowledge of life, and good spirits, sup-
ply him with a never- failing source of conversation. He
mentioned a respectable gentleman, who became extremely
penurious near the close of his life. Johnson said there
must have been a degree of madness about him. ' Not at

Online LibraryJames BoswellBoswell's Life of Johnson, including Boswell's Journal of a tour of the Hebrides, and Johnson's Diary of A journal into North Wales (Volume 4) → online text (page 19 of 49)