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We spoke of Rolt, to whose Dictionary of Commerce, Dr. Johnson wrote the Preface. JOHNSON. « Old Gardner, the Bookseller, employed Rolt and Smart to write a monthly miscellany, called • The Universal Visitor.' There was a formal written contract, which Allen the Printer saw. Gardner thought as you do of the Judge. They were bound to write nothing else; they were to have, I think, a third of the profits of his sixpenny pamphlet; and the contract was for ninetynine years. I wish I had thought of giving this to Thurlow, in the cause about Literary Property. What an excellent instance would it have been of the oppression of booksellers towards poor authours !” '(smiling)! Davies, zealous for the honour of the Trade, said, Gardner was not properly a bookseller. JOHNSON. “ Nay, Sir; he certainly was a bookseller. He had served his time regularly, was a member of the Stationers' company, kept a shop in the face of mankind, purchased copyright, and was a bibliopole, Sir, in every sense.
I wrote for some months in “ The Universal Visitor,' for poor Smart, while he was mad, not then knowing the terms on which he was engaged to write, and thinking I was doing him good. I hoped his wits would soon return to him. Mine returned to me, and I wrote in • The Universal Visitor' no longer.”
Friday, April 7, I dined with him at a Tavern, with a numerous company. JOHNSON. “ I have been reading Twiss's Travels in Spain,' which are just come out. They are as good as the first book of travels that you
* There has probably been some mistake as to the terms of this supposed extraordinary contract, the recital of which from hearsay afforded Johnson so much play for his sportive acuteness. Or if it was worded as he supposed, it is so strange that I should conclude it was a joke. Mr. Gardner, I am assured, was a worthy and liberal man.
will take up. They are as good as those of Keysler or Blainville; nay, as Addison's, if you except the learning. They are not so good as Brydone's, but they are better than Pococke's. I have not, indeed, cut the leaves yet; but I have read in them where the pages are open, and I do not suppose that what is in the pages which are closed is worse than what is in the open pages. It would seem (he added,) that Addison had not acquired much Italian learning, for we do not find it introduced into his writings. The only instance that I recollect, is his quoting Stavo bene ; per star meglio, sto qui.'”3
I mentioned Addison's having borrowed many of his classical remarks from Leandro Alberti. Mr. Beauclerk said, “ It was alledged that he had borrowed also from another Italian authour.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, all who go to look for what the Classicks have said of Italy, must find the same passages ; * and I should think it would be one of the first things the Italians would do on the revival of learning, to collect all that the Roman authours have said of their country.”
Ossian being mentioned ;-JOHNSON. Supposing the Irish and Erse languages to be the same, which I do not believe, yet as there is no reason to suppose that
* [Speaking of Addison's Remarks on Italy in “The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” (p. 320, 3d. edit.) he says, “it is a tedious book, and if it were not attached to Addison's previous reputation, one would not think much of it. Had he written nothing else, his name would not have lived. Addison does not seem to have gone deep into Italian literature: he shews nothing of it in his subsequent writings.—He shews a great deal of French learning." Malone.]
3 [Addison, however, does not mention where this celebrated Epitaph, which has eluded a very diligent enquiry, is found. Malone.)
["But if you find the same applications in another book, then Addisons's learning falls to the ground." Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, ut supra." MALONE.]
the inhabitants of the Highlands and Hebrides ever wrote their native language, it is not to be credited that a long poem was preserved among them. If we had no evidence of the art of writing being practised in one of the counties of England, we should not believe that a long poem was preserved there, though in the neighbouring counties, where the same language was spoken, the inhabitants could write.” BEAUCLERK. “ The ballad of Lilliburlero was once in the mouths of all the people of this country, and is said to have had a great effect in bringing about the Revolution. Yet I question whether any body can repeat it now; which shews how improbable it is that much poetry should be preserved by tradition.”
One of the company suggested an internal objection to the antiquity of the poetry said to be Ossian's, that we do not find the wolf in it, which must have been the case had it been of that age.
The mention of the wolf had led Johnson to think of other wild beasts; and while Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Langton were carrying on a dialogue about something which engaged them earnestly, he, in the midst of it, broke out, “ Pennant tells of Bears.-” [what he added, I have forgotten.] They went on, which he being dull of hearing, did not perceive, or, if he did, was not willing to break off his talk ; so he continued to vociferate his remarks, and Bear (“ like a word in a catch” as Beauclerk said,) was repeatedly heard at intervals, which coming from him who, by those who did not know him, had been so often assimilated to that ferocious animal, while we who were sitting round could hardly stifle laughter, produced a very ludicrous effect. Silence having ensued, he proceeded : “ We are told, that the black bear is innocent ; but I should not like to trust myself with him.” Mr. Gibbon muttered, in a low tone of voice, “ I should not like to trust myself with you.” This piece of sarcastick pleasantry was a prudent resolution, if applied to a competition of abilities.
Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintained, that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged, (not by Johnson) to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, whom we all greatly admired. JOHNSON. “ Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political conduct that he is honest. Were he to accept a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of his place in a year. This ministry is neither stable, nor grateful to their friends, as Sir Robert Walpole was : so that he may think it more for his interest to take his chance of his party coming in."
Mrs. Pritchard being mentioned, he said, “Her playing was quite mechanical. It is wonderful how little mind she had. Sir, she had never read the tragedy of Macbeth all through. She no more thought of the play out of which her part was taken, than a shoemaker thinks of the skin, out of which the piece of leather of which he is making a pair of shoes, is cut."
On Saturday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's, where we met the Irish Dr. Campbell. Johnson had supped the night before at Mrs. Abington's with some fashionable people whom he named; and he seemed much pleased with having made one in so elegant a circle. Nor did he omit to pique his mistress a little with jealousy of her housewifery; for he said, (with a smile,) " Mrs. Abington's jelly, my dear lady, was better than yours.”
Mrs. Thrale, who frequently practised a coarse mode of flattery, by repeating his bon-mots in his hearing, told us that he had said, a certain celebrated actor was just fit to stand at the door of an auction-room with a long pole, and cry, “ Pray, gentlemen, walk in ;” and that a certain authour upon hearing this, had said, that another still more celebrated actor was fit for nothing better than that, and would pick your pocket after you came out. JOHNSON. “ Nay, my dear lady, there is no wit in what our friend added ; there is only abuse. You may as well say of any man that he will pick a pocket. Besides, the man who is stationed at the door does not pick people's pockets ; that is done within by the auctioneer.”
Mrs. Thrale told us that Tom Davies repeated, in a very bold manner, the story of Dr. Johnson's first repartee to me, which I have related exactly.* He made me say, “ I was born in Scotland," instead of “ I come from Scotland ; " so that Johnson's saying,
“ That, Sir, is what a great many of your countrymen cannot help,” had no point, or even meaning: and that upon this being mentioned to Mr. Fitzherbert, he observed, “ It is not every man that can carry a bon mot.”
On Monday, April 10, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, with Mr. Langton and the Irish Dr. Campbell, whom the general had obligingly given me leave to bring with me. This learned gentleman was thus gratified with a very high intellectual feast, by not only being in company with Dr. Johnson, but with General
P. 345, Vol, I.