« ZurückWeiter »
“ Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now have as an author, and he is a very worthy man too. He has been loose in his principles, but he is coming right.”
I mentioned Mallet's tragedy of “ Elvira,” which had been acted the preceding winter at Drury-lane, and that the Hon. Andrew Erskine (1), Mr. Dempster (2), and myself, had joined in writing a pam
the modern Aristophanes, and at his theatre had long entertained the town with caricatures of living persons, thought that at this time a drama, in which himself should represent Johnson, and in his mien, his garb, and his speech, should display all his comic powers, would yield him a golden harvest. Johnson was apprised of his intention; and gave Mr. Foote to understand, that the licence under which he was permitted to entertain the town would not justify the liberties he was accustomed to take with private characters, and that if he persisted in his design, he would, by a severe chastisement of his representative on the stage, and in the face of the whole audience, convince the world, that, whatever were his infirmities, or even his foibles, they should not be made the sport of the public, or the means of gain to any one of his profession. Foote, upon this intimation, had discretion enough to desist from his purpose. Johnson entertained no resentment against him, and they were ever after friends. - HAWKINS.
(1) Third son of the fifth Earl of Kellie, born in 1736. He published [in 1763] some letters and poems addressed to Mr. Boswell. — C.
(2) George Dempster, of Dunnichen, secretary to the Order of the Thistle, and long M. P. for Fife, &c. He was a man of talents and very agreeable manners. Burns mentions him more than once with eulogy. As Mr. Dempster lived a good deal in Johnson's society, the reader may be glad to see the following slip-shod but characteristic epitaph (communicated to me by Sir Walter Scott), which he made on himself:
“ Pray for the soul of deceased George Dempster,
In his youth a great fool, in his old age a gamester. *
* Gamester, Scotticè, may rhyme with Dempster. He, however, only played for trifles; indeed the whole is a mere badinage. - 'W. Scotr.
phlet, entitled “ Critical Strictures," against it. (1) That the mildness of Dempster's disposition had, however, relented ; and he had candidly said, “ We have hardly a right to abuse this tragedy ; for, bad as it is, how vain should either of us be to write one not near so good !” Johnson. “ Why no, Sir; this is not just reasoning. You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.”
When I talked to him of the paternal estate to which I was heir, he said, “ Sir, let me tell you, that to be a Scotch landlord, where you have a number of families dependent upon you, and attached to you, is, perhaps, as high a situation as humanity can arrive at. A merchant upon the 'Change of London, with a hundred thousand pounds, is nothing; an English Duke, with an immense fortune, is nothing: he has no tenants who consider themselves as under his patriarchal care, and who will follow him to the field upon an emergency."
What you 're curious to know, on this tomb you shall see: -
And spent one half in sleeping, the other at cartes.”* - C. [In 1790, Mr. Dempster retired from parliament, and devotea himself to the improvement of agriculture and the fisheries. He died in 1818, aged 82.] - B.
(1) The Critical Review, in which Mallet himself sometimes wrote, characterised this pamphlet as “the crude efforts of envy, petulance, and self-conceit.” " There being thus three epithets, we, the three authors, had a humorous contention how each should be appropriated. — B.
* The Scotch, in familiar_life, retain many French words (tokens of their early intercourse with France), and among others cartes for cards.
His notion of the dignity of a Scotch landlord had been formed upon what he had heard of the Highland chiefs ; for it is long since a lowland landlord has been so curtailed in his feudal authority, that he has little more influence over his tenants than an English landlord ; and of late years most of the Highland chiefs have destroyed, by means too well known, the princely power which they once enjoyed. (1)
He proceeded :-“ Your going abroad, Sir, and breaking off idle habits, may be of great importance to you. I would go where there are courts and learned men. There is a good deal of Spain that has not been perambulated. I would have you go thither. A man of inferior talents to yours may furnish us with useful observations upon that country.” His supposing me, at that period of life, capable of writing an account of my travels that would deserve to be read, elated me not a little.
I appeal to every impartial reader whether this faithful detail of his frankness, complacency, and
(1) [Boswell alludes, principally at least, to the substitution of sheep farming for the old black-cattle system in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in consequence of which, fewer hands being required on the chiefs' estates, a large portion of their clansmen were driven into exile in America. We shall hear more of these affairs in the course of the Hebridean journal, post.]
kindness to a young man, a stranger, and a Scotchman, does not refute the unjust opinion of the harshness of his general demeanour. His occasional reproofs of folly, impudence, or impiety, and even the sudden sallies of his constitutional irritability of temper, which have been preserved for the poignancy of their wit, have produced that opinion among those who have not considered that such instances, though collected by Mrs. Piozzi into a small volume, and read over in a few hours, were, in fact, scattered through a long series of years : years, in which his time was chiefly spent in instructing and delighting mankind by his writings and conversation, in acts of piety to God, and good-will to men.
I complained to him that I had not yet acquired much knowledge, and asked his advice as to my studies. He said, “Don't talk of study now. I will give you a plan; but it will require some time to consider of it." “ It is very good in you,” I replied, “ to allow me to be with you thus. Had it been foretold to me some years ago that I should pass an evening with the author of the RAMBLER, how should I have exulted !” What I then expressed, was sincerely from the heart. He was satisfied that it was, and cordially answered, “Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope we shall pass many evenings, and mornings too, together.” We finished a couple of bottles of port, and sat till between one and two in the morning
Graham's “ Telemachus, a Mask.” Dr. Oliver Gold
smith. – Dr. John Campbell. - “ Hermippus Redivivu.” Churchill's Poetry.
Bonnell Thornton. — “ Ode on St. Cecilia's Day." - The Connoisseur. The World. - Miss Williams's Tea Parties. — Anecdotes of Goldsmith.
He wrote this year in the Critical Review the account of “Telemachus, a Mask,” by the Rev. George Graham, of Eton College. The subject of this beautiful poem was particularly interesting to Johnson, who had much experience of “the conflict of opposite principles,” which he describes as
The contention between pleasure and virtue; a struggle which will always be continued while the present system of nature shall subsist; nor can history or poetry exhibit more than pleasure triumphing over virtue, and virtue subjugating pleasure."
As Dr. Oliver Goldsmith will frequently appear in this narrative, I shall endeavour to make my readers in some degree acquainted with his singular character. He was a native of Ireland, and a contemporary with Mr. Burke, at Trinity College, Dublin, but did not then give much promise of future cele