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people, and seeing as much of life, and getting as much information as he could in every way, was not yet lessening himself by his forwardness. JOHNSON. “No, Sir; a man always makes himself greater as he increases his knowledge."
I censured some ludicrous fantastick dialogues between two coach-horses, and other such stuff, which Baretti had lately published. He joined with me, and said, “ Nothing odd will do long. • Tristram Shandy' did not last.” I expressed a desire to be acquainted with a lady' who had been much talked of, and universally celebrated for extraordinary address and insinuation. JOHNSON. “Never believe extraordinary characters which you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exaggerated. You do not see one man shoot a great deal higher than another." I mentioned Mr. Burke. JOHNSON. “Yes; Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind is perpetual." It is very pleasing to me to record, that Johnson's high estimation of the talents of this gentleman was uniform from their early acquaintance. Sir Joshua Reynolds informs me, that when Mr. Burke was first elected a member of parliament, and Sir John Hawkins expressed a wonder at his attaining a seat, Johnson said, “ Now we who know Burke, know, that he will be one of the first men in this country.” And once, when Johnson was ill, and unable to exert himself as much as usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said, " That fellow calls forth all my powers.
Were I to see Burke now, it would kill me." So much was he accustomed to consider conversation as a contest, and such was his notion of Burke as an opponent.
Next morning, Thursday, March 21, we set out in a post-chaise to pursue our ramble. It was a delightful day, and we drove through Blenheim Park. When I looked at the magnificent bridge built by John Duke of Marlborough, over a small rivulet, and recollected the Epigram made upon it,
“ The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
The stream, an emblem of his bounty flows." and saw that now, by the genius of Brown, a magnificent body of water was collected, I said, “ They have drowned the Epigram." 1 observed to him, while in the midst of the noble scene around us, “You and I, Sir, have, I think, seen together the extremes of what can be seen in Britain ;--the wild rough island of Mull, and Blenheim Park."
We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel-house, where he expatiated
? The a'lusion is probably to Mrs.
Rudd, of whom more later.
on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. “There is no private house (said he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that everybody should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot be : there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him : and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own. Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the wel. comer 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.” He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines :
“Whoe'er has traveli'd life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
The warmest welcome at an inn.'
* We happened to lye this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines. [The present “Red Lion."]
Cor. et Ad.-Line 19: On "inn," put the following note :—“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 wise and children, prefer domestick 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 conver. sation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love: I dog. matise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight."
Ibid.-Line 24: On “inn" put the following note :-“We happened to lye 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 travelled life's dull round,
Whate'er his various tour has been,
His warmest welcome at an inn.' Then read in the text as follows :-"My illustrious friend, I thought, did not suf. ficiently admire Shenstone. That ingenious and elegant gentleman's opinion of
In the afternoon, as we were driven 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 classick 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 Dr. 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 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 slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered to rats, as more dignified."
Johnson appears in one of his letters to Mr. Greaves, dated Feb. 9, 1760. "I hare 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.” * 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 authour 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 heroick, 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 judgement, to alter it, so as to produce the unlucky effect above mentioned."
The Bishop gives this character of Dr. Grainger :-"He was not only a aan of genius and learning, but had many excellent virtues; being one of the most generous, friendly, and benevolent men I ever knew."
Cor. et Ad.-In the notes, after “ above mentioned," read, “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.”
ibid.-Line 18: After“ dignified,” read, “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
•Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race,
A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane.'” "These modifications of text and notes Percy and other friends of Grainger's. are due to some expostulations from Dr. “What must I do," writes Auderson to
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 ; for, he exclaimed, “What could he make of a sugar-cane ? One might as well write, •The ParsleyBed, a Poem ;' or, “The Cabbage-Garden, 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 a 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 we had the beaver. Or why does he not write of the grey 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 Grey Rat, by Thomas Percy, D.D. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty,'” (laughing immoderately). Boswell. “I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the grey 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 settled as a physician in one of the Leeward
Cor.et Ad.-Line 30: After “ acquaintance," read as follows :-"He had practised physick in various situations with no great emolument. A 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 connection with him. Śo he forfeited the annuity. Percy, “with Boswell's ludicrous account passage was altered in the printed of the recitation of The Sugar-Cane ?' Shall I keep it, and retain your explana Second Edition, note on line 4.tions as they now stand ?” The bishop “Dr. Johnson said to me, * Percy, Sir, answers, "Boswell's ludicrous account was angry with me for laughing at of The Sugar-Cane'deserves no atten “The Sugar-Cane": for he had a mind to tion, and need not be mentioned, as the make a great thing of Grainger's rats.'
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 physick, 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, March 22, 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. Hector. A very stupid maid, who opened the door, told us, that “her master was gone out; he was gone to the country ; she could not tell when he would return.” In short, she gave us a miserable reception; and Johnson observed, “She would have behaved no better to people who wanted him in the way of his profession." He said to her, “ My name is Johnson; tell him I called. Will you remember the name ?" She answered with rustick simplicity, in the Warwickshire pronunciation, “I don't understand you, Sir.”—“ Blockhead, (said he,) I'll write.” I never heard the word blockhead applied to a woman before, though I do not see why it should not, when there is evident occasion for it. He, however, made another attempt to make her understand him, and roared loud in her ear, “ JOHNSON," and then she catched the sound.
We then called on Mr. Lloyd, one of the people called Quakers. He too was not at home; but Mrs. Lloyd was, and received us courteously, and asked us to dinner. Johnson said to me, “After the uncertainty of all human things at Hector's, this invitation came very well.” We walked about the town, and he was pleased to see it increasing
I talked of legitimation by subsequent marriage, which obtained in the Roman law, and still obtains in the law of Scotland. JOHNSON. “I think it a bad thing; because the chastity of women being of the utmost importance, as all property depends upon it, they who forfeit it should not have any possibility of being restored to good character; nor should the children, by an illicit connection, attain the full rights of lawful children, by the posteriour consent of the offending parties.” His opinion upon this subject deserves consideration. Upon his principle there may, at times, be a hardship,
Cor. et Ad.-Line 19: On“it ” put the following note :- “My worthy friend Mr. Langton, to whom I am under innumerable obligations in the course of my Johnsonian History, has furnished me with a droll illustration of this question. An honest carpenter, after giving some anecdote, in his presence, of the ill treatment which he had received from a clergyman's wife, who was a noted termagant, and whom he accused of unjust dealing in some transaction with him, added, I took care to let her know what I thought of her.' And being asked, “What did you say ?' answered. 'I told her she was a scoundrel.'"