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We talked of the state of the poor in London.Johnson : “Saunders Welch, the Justice, who was once high-constable of Holborn, and had the best
opportunities of knowing the state of the poor, told me, that I under-rated the number, when I computed that twenty a week, that is above a thousand a year, died of hunger; not absolutely of immediate hunger; but of the wasting and other diseases which are the consequences of hunger. This happens only in so large a place as London, where people are not known. What we are told about the great sums got by begging, is not true: the trade is overstocked. And, you may depend upon it, there are many who cannot get work.
who cannot get work. A particular kind of manufacture fails; those who have been used to work at it, can, for some time, work at nothing else. You meet a man begging; you charge him with idleness : he says, 'I am willing to labour. Will you give me work ?--'I cannot.'—Why then you have no right to charge me with idleness.””
We left Mr. Strahan's at seven, as Johnson had said he intended to go to evening prayers. As we walked along he complained of a little gout in bis toe, and said, “I shan't go to prayers to-night; I shall morrow : Whenever I miss church on a Sunday, I resolve to go another day. But I do not always do it.” This was a fair exhibition of that vibration between pious resolutions and indolence, which many of us have too often experienced.
I went home with him, and we had a long quiet conversation.
I read him a letter from Dr. Hugh Blair concerning Pope (in writing whose life he was now employed), which I shall insert as a literary curiosity.”
p The Rev. Dr. Law, Bishop of Carlisle, in the Preface to his valuable edition of Archbishop King's “Essay on the Origin of Evil," mentions that the principles maintained in it had been adopted by Pope in his “ Essay on Man;" and adds, “The fact, notwithstanding such denial (Bishop Warburton's) might have been strictly verified by an unexceptionable testimony, viz. that of the late Lord Bathurst who saw the very same system of the tò Béatcov (taken from the Archbishop) in Lord Bolingbroke's own hand, lying before Mr. Pope, while he was composing his Essay.” This is respectable evidence; but that of Dr. Blair is more direct from the fountain head, as well as more full. Let me add to it that of Dr. Joseph Warton ; “The late Lord Bathurst repeatedly assured me that he had read the whole scheme of the Essay on Man,' in the hand-writing of Bolingbroke, and drawn up in a series of propositions, which Pope was to versify and illustrate." Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, vol. ii.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“In the year 1763, being at London, I was carried by Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, to dine at old Lord Bathurst's ; where we found the late Mr. Mallet, Sir James Porter, who had been Ambassadour at Constantinople, the late Dr. Macaulay, and two or three more.
The conversation turning on Mr. Pope, Lord Bathurst told us, that “The Essay on Man' was originally composed by Lord Bolingbroke in prose, and that Mr. Pope did no more than put it into verse: that he had read Lord Bolingbroke's manuscript in his own hand-writing; and remembered well, that he was at a loss whether most to admire the elegance of Lord Bolingbroke's prose, or the beauty of Mr. Pope's verse. When Lord Bathurst told this, Mr. Mallet bade me attend, and remember this remarkable piece of information; as, by the course of Nature, I might survive his Lordship, and be a witness of his having said so. The conversation was indeed too remarkable to be forgotten. A few days after, meeting with you,
who were then also at London, you will remember that I mentioned to you what had passed on this subject, as I was much struck with this anecdote. But what ascertains my recollection of it beyond doubt, is, that being accustomed to keep a jour
nal of what passed when I was at London, which I wrote out every evening, I find the particulars of the above information, just as I have now given them, distinctly marked; and am thence enabled to fix this conversation to have passed on Friday, the 22d of April, 1763.
“I remember also distinctly (though I have not for this the authority of my Journal), that the conversation going on concerning Mr. Pope, I took notice of a report which had been sometimes propagated that he did not understand Greek. Lord Bathurst said to me that he knew that to be false ; for the part of the Iliad was translated by Mr. Pope in his house in the country; and that in the morning when they assembled at breakfast, Mr. Pope used frequently to repeat, with great rapture, the Greek lines which he had been translating, and then to give them his version of them, and to compare them together.
“ If these circumstances can be of any use to Dr. Johnson, you have my full liberty to give them to him. I beg you will, at the same time, present to him my most respectful compliments, with best wishes for his success and fame in all his literary undertakings. I am, with great respect, my dearest Sir, “Your most affectionate, “ And obliged humble servant,
“ Hugh BLAIR.” “Broughton Park, Sept. 21, 1779."
Johnson: “Depend upon it, Sir, this is too strongly stated. Pope may have had from Bolingbroke the philosophick stamina of his Essay ; and admitting this to be true, Lord Bathurst did not intentionally falsify. But the thing is not true in the latitude that Blair seems to imagine ; we are sure that the poetical imagery, which makes a great part of the poem, was Pope's own
It is amazing, Sir, what deviations there are from precise truth, in the account which is given of almost every thing. I told Mrs. Thrale, “You have so little anxiety about truth, that you never tax your memory with the exact thing.' Now what is the use of the memory to truth, if one is careless of exactness? Lord Hailes's · Annals of Scotland' are very exact; but they contain mere dry particulars.' They are to be considered as a Dictionary. You know such things are there; and may be looked at when you please. Robertson paints; but the misfortune is, you are sure he does not know the people whom he paints ; so you cannot suppose a likeness. Characters should never be given by an historian, unless he knew the people whom he describes, or copies from those who knew them.”
BOSWELL: “Why, Sir, do people play this trick which I observe now, when I look at your grate, putting the shovel against it to make the fire burn?” JOHNSON:
They play the trick, but it does not make the fire burn. There is a better; (setting the poker perpendicularly up at right angles with the grate). In days of superstition they thought, as it made a cross with the bars, it would drive away the witch.”
Boswell: “ By associating with you, Sir, I am always getting an accession of wisdom. But perhaps a man, after knowing his own character—the limited strength of his own mind, should not be desirous of having too much wisdom, considering, quid valeant humeri, how little he can carry.” Johnson : “Sir, be as wise as you can; let a man be aliis lætus, sapiens sibi:
. Though pleas'd to see the dolphins play,
I mind my compass and my way.'" 9 [It certainly does make the fire burn : by repelling the air, it throws a blast on the fire, and so performs the part in some degree of a blower or bellows. K.]
The Spleen, a Poem.
You may be as wise in your study in the morning, and gay in company at a tavern in the evening. Every man is to take care of his own wisdom and his own virtue, without minding too much what others think.”
He said "Dodsley first mentioned to me the scheme of an English Dictionary ; but I had long thought of it.” BOSWELL: “You did not know what you were undertaking." Johnson : “Yes, Sir, I knew very well what I was undertaking,—and very well how to do it, --and have done it very well.” BOSWELL:
BOSWELL: “An excellent climax! and it has availed
In you say, “What would it avail me in this gloom of solitude ? You have been agreeably mistaken.”
In his life of Milton, he observes, “I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to this great man by his biographers: every house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it were an injury to neglect naming any place that he honoured by his presence.” I had, before I read this observation, been desirous of shewing that respect to Johnson, by various inquiries. Finding him this evening in a very good humour, I prevailed on him to give me an exact list of his places of residence, since he entered the metropolis as an authour, which I subjoin in a note."
* 1. Exeter-street, off Catherine-street, Strand. 2. Greenwich. 3. Woodstock-street, near Hanover-square. 4. Castle-street, Cavendish-square, No. 6. 5. Strand. 6. Boswell-court. 7. Strand, again. 8. Bow-street. 9. Holborn. 10. Fetter-lane. 11. Holborn, again. 12. Gough-square. 13. Staple-Inn. 14. Gray's Inn.