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a good deal of extraneous matter, which you are to 1778. produce occasionally, so as to fill up the time ; for you Ætat. must consider, that they do not listen much. If you 69. begin with the strength of your cause, it may be lost before they begin to listen. When you catch a moment of attention, press the merits of the question
He said, as to one point of the merits, that he thought, “ it would be a wrong thing to deprive the small landholders of the privilege of assessing themselves for making and repairing the high roads; it was destroying a certain portion of liberty, without a good reason, which was always a bad thing. When I mentioned this observation next day to Mr. Wilkes, he pleasantly said, “What! does he talk of liberty ? Liberty is as ridiculous in his mouth as Religion in mine.' Mr. Wilkes's advice as to the best mode of speaking at the bar of the House of Commons, was not more respectful towards the senate, than that of Dr. Johnson. “ Be as impudent as you can, as merry as you can, and say whatever comes uppermost. Jack Lee is the best heard there of any Counsel ; and he is the most impudent dog, and always abusing us.”
In my interview with Dr. Johnson this evening, I was quite easy, quite as his companion ; upon which I find in my Journal the following reflection : ready is my mind to suggest matter for dissatisfaction, that I felt a sort of regret that I was so easy. I missed that aweful reverence with which I used to contemplate Mr. SAMUEL JOHNSON, in the complex magnitude of his literary, moral, and religious character. I have a wonderful superstitious love of mystery ; when, perhaps, the truth is, that it is owing to the cloudy darkness of my own mind. I should be glad that I am more advanced in my progress of being, so that I can view Dr. Johnson with a steadier and clearer
eye. My dissatisfaction to-night was foolish. Would it not be foolish to regret that we shall have less mystery in a future state ? That'we now see in a glass darkly, but shall then see face to face ?”—This reflection, which Į thus freely communicate, will be valued by the
1778. thinking part of my readers, who may have themselves Ætat, experienced a similar state of mind. 69. He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's;
where, as Mr. Strahan once complained to me, “ he was in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old friends.” I was kept in London by business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that a separation from him for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a year, when we were at four hundred miles distance. I went to Streatham on Monday, March 30. Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale made a very characteristical remark :-" I do not know for certain what will please Dr. Johnson : but I know for certain that it will displease him to praise any thing, even what he likes, extravagantly.”
At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on account of luxury,--increase of London,--scarcity of provisions, and other such topicks. “ Houses (said he) will be built till rents fall; and corn is more plentiful now than ever it was.”
I had before dinner repeated a ridiculous story told me by an old man, who had been a passenger with me in the stage-coach to-day. Mrs. Thrale, having taken occasion to allude to it, in talking to me, called it “ The story told you by the old woman.'
.”_“Now, Madam, (said I,) give me leave to catch you in the fact : it was not an old woman, but an old man, whom I mentioned as having told me this.” I presumed to take an opportunity, in presence of Johnson, of shewing this lively lady how ready she was, unintentionally, to deviate from exact authenticity of narration.
“ Thomas à Kempis (he observed) must be a good book, as the world has opened its arms to receive it. It is said to have been printed, in one language or other, as many times as there have been months since it first
I always was struck with this sentence in it : ‘Be not angry that you cannot make others as you
came out. 6
[The first edition was in 1492. Between that period and 1792, according to this account, there were three thousand six hundred editions. But this is very improbable. M.]
wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as 1778. you wish to be.”,
Ætat. He said, “ I was angry with Hurd about Cowley, for 69. having published a selection of his works : but, upon better consideration, I think there is no impropriety in a man's publishing as much as he chooses of any authour, if he does not put the rest out of the way. A man, for instance, may print the Odes of Horace alone.” He seemed to be in a more indulgent humour, than when this subject was discussed between him and Mr. Murphy.
When we were at tea and coffee, there came in Lord Trimlestown, in whose family was an ancient Irish peerage, but it suffered by taking the generous side in the troubles of the last century. He was a man of pleasing conversation, and was accompanied by a young gentleman, his son.
I mentioned that I had in my possession the Life of Sir Robert Sibbald, the celebrated Scottish antiquary, and founder of the Royal College of Physicians at Edinburgh, in the original manuscript in his own hand writing; and that it was, I believed, the most natural and candid account of himself that ever was given by any man. As an instance, he tells that the Duke of Perth, then Chancellor of Scotland, pressed him very much to come over to the Roman Catholick faith : that he resisted all his Grace's arguments for a considerable time, till one day he felt himself, as it were, instantaneously convinced, and with tears in his eyes ran into the Duke's arms, and embraced the ancient religion ; that he continued very steady in it for some time, and accompanied his Grace to London one winter, and lived in his household ; that there he found the rigid fasting prescribed by the church very severe upon him ; that this disposed him to reconsider the controversy, and
[The original passage is : Si non potes te talem facere, qualem vis, quomodo poteris alium ad tuum habere beneplacitum ? De Imit. Christ. Lib. i. Cap. xvi.
J. B.-0.] [Since this was written, the attainder has been reversed ; and Nicholas Barnewall is now a peer of Ireland with this title. The person mentioned in the text had studied physick, and prescribed gratis to the poor. Hence arose the subsequent conversation. M.]
" A very
1778. having then seen that he was in the wrong, he returnÆtat.
ed to Protestantism. I talked of some time or other 69. publishing this curious life. Mrs. THRALE. “I think
you had as well let alone that publication. To discov-
JOHNSON. “ Yes, indeed.” Bos“ And as a lady adjusts her dress before a mirrour, a man adjusts his character by looking at his journal.” I next year found the very same thought in Atterbury's “ Funeral Sermon on Lady Cutts ;” where having mentioned her Diary, he says, “ In this glass she every day dressed her mind.” This is a proof of coincidence, and not of plagiarism ; for I had never read that sermon before.
Next morning, while we were at breakfast, Johnson gave a very earnest recommendation of what he himself
practised with the utmost conscientiousness : I mean * a strict attention to truth, even in the most minute par
ticulars. “ Accustom your children (said he) constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end." Boswell. “ It may come to the door: and when once an account is at all varied in one circumstance, it may by degrees be varied so as to be totally different from what really happened.” Our lively hostess, whose fancy was impatient of the rein, fidgeted at this, and ventured to say, “ Nay, this is too much. If Mr. Johnson should forbid me to drink tea, I would comply, as I should feel the restraint only twice a day; but little variations in narrative must happen a thousand times a day, if
one is not perpetually watching.” Johnson. “ Well, 1778. Madam, and you ought to be perpetually watching. It Ætat. is more from carelessness about truth than from inten- 69. tional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.”
In his review of Dr. Warton's “ Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope,” Johnson has given the following salutary caution upon this subject : “ Nothing but experience could evince the frequency of false information, or enable any man to conceive that so many groundless reports should be propagated, as every man of eminence may hear of himself. Some men relate what they think, as what they know ; some men of confused memories and habitual inaccuracy, ascribe to one man what belongs to another; and some talk on, without thought or care. A few men are sufficient to broach falsehoods, which are afterwards innocently diffused by successive relaters.", Had he lived to read what Sir John Hawkins and Mrs. Piozzi have related concerning himself, how much would he have found his observation illustrated. He was indeed so much impressed with the prevalence of falsehood, voluntary or unintentional, that I never knew any person who upon hearing an extraordinary circumstance told, discovered more of the incredulus odi. He would say with a significant look and decisive tone, “ It is not
Do not tell this again.”. He inculcated upon all his friends the importance of perpetual vigilance against the slightest degrees of falsehood ; the effect of which, as Sir Joshua Reynolds observed to me, has been, that all who were of his school are distinguished for a love of truth and accuracy, which they would not have possessed in the same degree, if they had not been acquainted with Johnson.
• Literary Magazine, 1756, p. 37.
· The following plausible but over-prudent counsel on this subject is given by an Italian writer, quoted by “Rbedi de generatione insectarum,” with the epithet of “ divini poetæ."
“ Sempre à quel ver ch'a faccia di menzogna