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elegance: Foote makes you laugh more; but Foote has the air of a buffoon paid for entertaining the He, indeed, well deserves his hire."
Colley Cibber once consulted me as to one of his birth-day Odes, a long time before it was wanted. I objected very freely to several passages. Cibber lost patience, and would not read his Ode to an end. When we had done with criticism, we walked over to Richardson's, the authour of Clarissa,' and I wondered to see Richardson displeased that I did not treat Cibber with more respect.' Now, sir, to talk of respect for a player!" (smiling disdainfully). BOSWELL. "There, sir, you are always heretical: you never will allow merit to a player." JOHNSON. " Merit, sir, what merit? Do you respect a rope-dancer, or a ballad-singer?" BOSWELL. "No, sir: but we respect a great player, as a man who can conceive lofty sentiments, and can express them gracefully." JOHNSON. What, sir, a fellow who claps a hump on his back, and a lump on his leg, and cries, I am Richard the Third?' Nay, sir, a ballad-singer is a higher man, for he does two things; he repeats and he sings: there is both recitation and musick in his performance: the player only recites." BOSWELL. "My dear sir, you may turn any thing into ridicule. allow, that a player of farce is not entitled to respect; he does a little thing: but he who can represent exalted characters, and touch the noblest passions, has very respectable powers; and mankind have agreed in admiring great talents for the stage. We must consider, too, that a great player does what very few are capable to do: his art is a very rare faculty. Who can repeat Hamlet's soliloquy, To be, or not to be,' as Garrick does it?" JOHNSON. " Any body may. Jemmy, there (a boy about eight years old, who was in the room), will do it as well in a week." BOSWELL. No, no, sir: and as a proof of the merit of great
acting, and of the value which mankind set upon it, Garrick has got a hundred thousand pounds." JOHNSON. "Is getting a hundred thousand pounds a proof of excellence? That has been done by a scoundrel commissary."
This was most fallacious reasoning. I was sure, for once, that I had the best side of the argument. I boldly maintained the just distinction between a -tragedian and a mere theatrical droll; between those who rouse our terrour and pity, and those who only make us laugh. "If (said I) Betterton and Foote were to walk into this room, you would respect Betterton much more than Foote." JOHNSON. "If Betterton were to walk into this room with Foote, Foote would soon drive him out of it. Foote, sir, quatenus Foote, has powers superiour to them all.”
On Monday, September 22, when at breakfast, I unguardedly said to Dr. Johnson, "I wish I saw you and Mrs. Macaulay together." He grew very angry; and, after a pause, while a cloud gathered on his brow, he burst out, No, sir; you would not see us quarrel, to make you sport. Don't you know that it is very uncivil to pit two people against one another?'' Then, checking himself, and wishing to be more gentle, he added, "I do not say you should be hanged or drowned for this; but it is very uncivil." Taylor thought him in the wrong, and spoke to him privately of it; but I afterwards acknowledged to Johnson that I was to blame, for I candidly owned, that I meant to express a desire to see a contest between Mrs. Macaulay and him; but then I knew how the contest would end; so that I was to see him triumph. JOHNSON. "Sir, you cannot be sure how a contest will end; and no man has a right to engage two people in a dispute by which their passions may be inflamed, and they may part with bitter resentment against each other. I would sooner keep com
pany with a man from whom I must guard my pockets, than with a man who contrives to bring me into a dispute with somebody that he may hear it. This is the great fault of (naming one of our friends), endeavouring to introduce a subject upon which he knows two people in the company differ." BOSWELL. "But he told me, sir, he does it for instruction." JOHNSON. "Whatever the motive be, sir, the man who does so, does very wrong. He has no more right to instruct himself at such risk, than' he has to make two people fight a duel, that he may learn how to defend himself."
He found great fault with a gentleman of our acquaintance for keeping a bad table. "Sir (said he), when a man is invited to dinner, he is disappointed if he does not get something good. I advised Mrs. Thrale, who has no card-parties at her house, to give sweet-meats, and such good things, in an evening, as are not commonly given, and she would find company enough come to her; for every body loves to have things which please the palate put in their way, without trouble or preparation." Such was his attention to the minutiae of life and manners.
He thus characterised the Duke of Devonshire, grandfather of the present representative of that very respectable family: "He was not a man of superiour abilities, but he was a man strictly faithful to his word. If, for instance, he had promised you an acorn, and none had grown that year in his woods, he would not have contented himself with that excuse: he would have sent to Denmark for it. So unconditional was he in keeping his word; so high as to the point of honour." This was a liberal testimony from the Tory Johnson to the virtue of a great Whig nobleman.
Mr. Burke's "Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, on the affairs of America," being mentioned, Johnson
censured the composition much, and he ridiculed the definition of a free government, viz. "For any practical purpose, it is what the people think so.""I will let the King of France govern me on those conditions (said he), for it is to be governed just as I please." And when Dr. Taylor talked of a girl being sent to a parish workhouse, and asked how much she could be obliged to work, "Why (said Johnson), as much as is reasonable: and what is that? as much as she thinks reasonable."
Dr. Johnson obligingly proposed to carry me to see Islam, a romantick scene, now belonging to a family of the name of Port, but formerly the seat of the Congreves. I suppose it is well described in some of the Tours. Johnson described it distinctly and vividly, at which I could not but express to him my wonder; because, though my eyes, as he observed, were better than his, I could not by any means equal him in representing visible objects. I said, the difference between us in this respect was as that between a man who has a bad instrument, but plays well on it, and a man who has a good instrument, on which he can play very imperfectly.
I recollect a very fine amphitheatre, surrounded with hills covered with woods, and walks neatly formed along the side of a rocky steep, on the quarter next the house, with recesses under projections of rock, overshadowed with trees; in one of which recesses, we were told, Congreve wrote his "Old Bachelor." We viewed a remarkable natural curiosity at Islam; two rivers bursting near each other from the rock, not from immediate springs, but after having run for many miles under ground. Plott, in his " History of Staffordshire,' gives an account of this curiosity; but Johnson would not believe it,
1 Edit. 2, p. 53,
2 Page 89.
though we had the attestation of the gardener, who said, he had put in corks, where the river Many fold sinks into the ground, and had catched them in a net, placed before one of the openings where the water bursts out. Indeed, such subterraneous courses of water are found in various parts of our globe.'
Talking of Dr. Johnson's unwillingness to believe extraordinary things, I ventured to say, "Sir, you come near Hume's argument against miracles,' That it is more probable witnesses should lie, or be mistaken, than that they should happen."' JOHNSON. Why, sir, Hume, taking the proposition simply, is right. But the Christian revelation is not proved by the miracles alone, but as connected with prophecies, and with the doctrines in confirmation of which the miracles were wrought."
He repeated his observation, that the differences among Christians are really of no consequence. "For instance (said he), if a Protestant objects to a Papist, 'You worship images; the Papist can answer, 'I do not insist on your doing it; you may be a very good Papist without it: I do it only as a help to my devotion." I said, the great article of Christianity is the revelation of immortality. Johnson admitted
In the evening, a gentleman-farmer, who was on a visit to Dr. Taylor's, attempted to dispute with Johnson in favour of Mungo Campbell, who shot Alexander, Earl of Eglintoune, upon his having fallen, when retreating from his Lordship, who he believed was about to seize his gun, as he had threatened to do. He said, he should have done just as Campbell did. JOHNSON. "Whoever would do as Campbell did, deserves to be hanged; not that I could, as a
1 See Plott's "History of Staffordshire,” p. 88, and the authorities referred to by him.