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but that I love you and wish you happy, of which you may be always assured, whether I write or not.
“ I have had an inflammation in my eyes ; but it is much better, and will be I hope, soon quite well.
“Be so good as to let me know whether you design to stay at Lichfield this summer ; if you do, I purpose to come down. I shall bring Frank with me; so that Kitty must contrive to make two beds, or get a servant's bed at the Three Crowns, which may be as well. As I suppose she may want sheets and table-linen, and such things, I have sent ten pounds, which she may lay out in conveniences. I will pay her for her board what you think proper ; I think a guinea a week for me and the boy.
“Be pleased to give my love to Kitty. I am, my dearest love, your most humble servant,
“SAM. JOHNSON. On Wednesday, July 6., he was engaged to sup with me at my lodgings in Downing-street, Westminster. But on the preceding night my landlord having behaved very rudely to me and some company who were with me, I had resolved not to remain another night in his house. I was exceedingly uneasy at the awkward appearance I supposed I should make to Johnson and the other gentlemen whom I had invited, not being able to receive them at home, and being obliged to order supper at the Mitre. I went to Johnson in the morning, and talked of it as of a serious distress. He laughed, and said, “ Consider, Sir, how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence.” Were this consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful
sensations. I have tried it frequently with good effect. “ There is nothing," continued he, “ in this mighty misfortune; nay, we shall be better at the Mitre.” I told him that I had been at Sir John Fielding's office, complaining of my landlord, and had been informed that, though I had taken my lodgings for a year, I might, upon proof of his bad behaviour, quit them when I pleased, without being under an obligation to pay rent for any longer time than while I possessed them. The fertility of Johnson's mind could shew itself even upon so small a matter as this. “ Why, Sir,” said he, “I
suppose this must be the law, since you have been told so in Bow-street. But, if your landlord could hold you to your bargain, and the lodgings should be yours for a year, you may certainly use them as you think fit. (1) So, Sir, you may quarter two life-guardmen upon him ; or you may send the greatest scoundrel you can find into your apartments; or you may say that you want to make some experiments in natural philosophy, and may burn a large quantity of assafatida in his house."
I had as my guests this evening at the Mitre tavern, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Thomas Davies, Mr.Eccles (2), an Irish gentleman, for whose
(1) Certainly not; you must use them according to the contract, expressed or implied, under which you have hired them. If a landlord breaks his part of the contract, the law will relieve the other party; but the latter is not at liberty to take such violent and illegal steps as Johnson suggests.-C.
Isaac Ambrose Eccles, Esq., of Cronroe, in the county of Wicklow: he published one or two plays of Shakspeare, with notes -C.
agreeable company I was obliged to Mr. Davies, and the Rev. Mr. John Ogilvie (1), who was desirous of being in company
company with my illustrious friend, while I, in my turn, was proud to have the honour of showing one of my countrymen upon what easy terms Johnson permitted me to live with him.
Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerness, to shine, and disputed very warmly with Johnson against the well-known maxim of the British constitution, “ the king can do no wrong ;" affirming, that " what was morally false could not be politically true; and as the king might, in the exercise of his regal power, command and cause the doing of what was wrong, it certainly might be said, in sense and in reason, that he could do wrong." Johnson. “Sir, you are to consider, that in our constitution, according to its true principles, the king is the head, he is supreme ; he is above every thing, and there is no power by which he can be tried. Therefore it is, Sir, that we hold the king can do no wrong; that whatever may happen to be wrong in government may not be above our reach, by being ascribed to Majesty. Redress is
(1) The northern bard mentioned page 202. When I asked Dr. Johnson's permission to introduce him, he obligingly agreed; adding, however, with a sly pleasantry, “but he must give us none of his poetry.” It is remarkable that Johnson and Churchill, however much they differed in other points, agreed on this subject. See Churchill's “ Journey.” It is, however, but justice to Dr. Ogilvie to observe, that his “ Day of Judgment” has no inconsiderable share of merit. — B.
Boswell's naïveté in thinking it remarkable that two persons should agree in disliking the poetry of his northern bard is amusing : it might have been more remarkable if two had agreed in liking it.-C.
THE KING CAN DO NO WRONG.”
always to be had against oppression, by punishing the immediate agents. The king, though he should command, cannot force a judge to condemn a man unjustly ; therefore it is the judge whom we prosecute and punish. Political institutions are formed upon the consideration of what will most frequently tend to the good of the whole, although now and then exceptions may occur.
Thus it is better in general that a nation should have a supreme legislative power, although it may at times be abused. And then, Sir, there is this consideration, that if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up; and, claiming her original rights, overturn a corrupt political system.” I mark this animated sentence with peculiar pleasure, as a noble instance of that truly dignified spirit of freedom which ever glowed in his heart, though he was charged with slavish tenets by superficial observers; because he was at all times indignant against that false patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that unruly restlessness, which is inconsistent with the stable authority of any good government.
This generous sentiment, which he uttered with great fervour, struck me exceedingly, and stirred my blood to that pitch of fancied resistance, the possibility of which I am glad to keep in mind, but to which I trust I never shall be forced.
“ Great abilities” said he, “ are not requisite for an historian; for in historical composition all the greatest powers of the human mind are quiescent. He has facts ready to his hand; so there is no exercise of invention. Imagination is not required in
any high degree; only about as much as is used in the lower kinds of poetry. Some penetration, accuracy, and colouring, will fit a man for the task, if he can give the application which is necessary.”
“ Bayle's Dictionary is a very useful work for those to consult who love the biographical part of literature, which is what I love most.” (1)
Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign, he observed, “I think Dr. Arbuthnot the first man among them. He was the most universal
genius, being an excellent physician, a man of deep learning, and a man of much humour. Mr. Addison was, to be sure, a great man : his learning was not profound; but his morality, his humour, and his elegance of writing, set him very high.”
Mr. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the topic of his conversation the praises of his native country. He began with saying, that there was very rich land around Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had studied physic there, contradicted this, very untruly, with a sneering laugh. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie then took new ground, where, I suppose, he thought himself perfectly safe ; for he observed, that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. Johnson. “I believe, Sir, you have a great many. Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which
(1) [" Somebody speaking of Bayle's manner in his Dictionary, Mr. Pope said: - Ay, he is the only man that ever collected with so much judgment, and wrote with so much spirit, at the same time.'* -SPENCE.]