Abbildungen der Seite

sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." (1) He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines:

"Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,

Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found

The warmest welcome at an inn." (2)

My illustrious friend, I thought, did not suf ficiently admire Shenstone. That ingenious and elegant gentleman's opinion of Johnson appears in

(1) Sir John Hawkins has preserved very few memorabilia of Johnson. There is, however, to be found in his bulky tome a very excellent one upon this subject. "In contradiction to those who, having a wife and children, prefer domestic enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, I have heard him assert, that a tavern chair was the throne of human felicity. As soon,' said he, as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude: when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants: wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love: I dogmatise and ain contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight."

(2) We happened to lie this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines; which I give as they are found in the corrected edition of his works, published after his death. In Dodsley's collection the stanza ran thus:

"Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,
Whate'er his various tour has been,
May sigh to think how oft he found
His warmest welcome at an inn."

one of his letters to Mr. Greaves, dated Feb. 9. 1760. "I have lately been reading one or two volumes of the Rambler; who, excepting against some few hardnesses in his manner, and the want of more examples to enliven, is one of the most nervous, most perspicuous, most concise, most harmonious prose writers I know. A learned diction improves by time."

In the afternoon, as we were driving rapidly along in the postchaise, he said to me, "Life has not many things better than this." (')

We stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank tea and coffee; and it pleased me to be with him upon the classic ground of Shakspeare's native place.

He spoke slightingly of Dyer's " Fleece." "The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets? Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem, 'The Fleece."" Having talked of Grainger's "Sugar Cane," I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me, that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had

(1) He loved, indeed, the very act of travelling, and I cannot tell how far one might have taken him in a carriage before he would have wished for refreshment. He was therefore in some respects an admirable companion on the road, as he piqued himself upon feeling no inconvenience, and on despising no accommodations. On the other hand, however, he expected no one else to feel any, and felt exceedingly inflamed with anger if any one complained of the rain, the sun, or the dust. "How," said he, "do other people bear them?" As for general uneasiness, or complaints of long confinement in a carriage, he considered all lamentations on their account as proofs of an empty head, and a tongue desirous to talk without materials of conversation. "A mill that goes without grist," said he, "is as good a companion as such creatures." - Piozzi.

made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus:

"Now, Muse, let's sing of rats."

And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slyly overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered to rats, as more dignified. (1)

This passage does not appear in the printed work, Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends. it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even rats, in a grave poem, might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands :

(1) Such is this little laughable incident, which has been often related. Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was an intimate friend of Dr. Grainger, and has a particular regard for his memory, has communicated to me the following explanation:

"The passage in question was originally not liable to such a perversion : for the author having occasion in that part of his work to mention the havock made by rats and mice, had introduced the subject in a kind of mock heroic, and a parody of Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice, invoking the muse of the old Grecian bard in an elegant and well-turned manner. In that state I had seen it; but afterwards, unknown to me and other friends, he had been persuaded, contrary to his own better judgment, to alter it, so as to produce the unlucky effect above mentioned."

The above was written by the Bishop when he had not the poem itself to recur to: and though the account given was true of it at one period, yet, as Dr. Grainger afterwards altered the passage in question, the remarks in the text do not now apply to the printed poem. The Bishop gives this character of Dr. Grainger: "He was not only a mar. of genius and learning, but had many excellent virtues; being one of the most generous, friendly, and benevolent men I ever knew." Dr. Johnson said to me, "Percy, Sir, was angry with me for laughing at the Sugar-cane: for he had a mind to make a great thing of Grainger's rats."

"Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race,

A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane.'

[ocr errors]

Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do any good that was in his power. His translation of Tibullus, he thought, was very well done; but "The Sugar Cane, a Poem," did not please him (1); for, he exclaimed, “What could he make of a sugar cane? One might as well write the 'Parsley bed, a Poem ;' or 'The Cabbagegarden, a Poem.'" BosWELL. "You must then pickle your cabbage with the sal atticum."

JOHNSON. "You know there is already 'The Hop Garden, a Poem;' and I think, one could say a great deal about cabbage. The poem might begin with the advantages of civilised society over the rude state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver Cromwell's soldiers introduced them; and one might thus show how arts are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms.” He seemed to be much diverted with the fertility of his own fancy.

I told him, that I heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf in Great Britain. JOHNSON. "The wolf, Sir; why the wolf? Why does he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said that we had the beaver. Or why does he not write of the gray rat, the Hanover rat, as it is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see The History of the Gray Rat, by Thomas

[ocr errors]

(1) [Yet Dr. Johnson sent a very friendly review of the "Sugar Cane" to the London Chronicle of July 5. 1764. CHAMEERS.]

Percy, D.D., Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty" (laughing immoderately). BoswELL. "I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the gray rat." JOHNSON. "Sir, he need not give it the name of the Hanover rat." Thus could he indulge a luxuriant sportive imagination, when talking of a friend whom he loved and esteemed.


He mentioned to me the singular history of an ingenious acquaintance. "He had practised physic in various situations with no great emolument. West India gentleman, whom he delighted by his conversation, gave him a bond for a handsome annuity during his life, on the condition of his accompanying him to the West Indies, and living with him there for two years. He accordingly embarked with the gentleman; but upon the voyage fell in love with a young woman who happened to be one of the passengers, and married the wench. From the imprudence of his disposition he quarrelled with the gentleman, and declared he would have no connexion with him. So he forfeited the annuity. He settled as a physician in one of the Leeward Islands. A man was sent out to him merely to compound his medicines. This fellow set up as a rival to him in his practice of physic, and got so much the better of him in the opinion of the people of the island, that he carried away all the business, upon which he returned to England, and soon after died."

On Friday, 22d March, having set out early from Henley, where we had lain the preceding night, we arrived at Birmingham about nine o'clock, and after breakfast went to call on his old schoolfellow, Mr.

« ZurückWeiter »