gyrist. BOSWELL: "No quality will get a man more friends than a disposition to admire the qualities of others. I do not mean flattery, but a sincere admiration." JOHNSON: "Nay, sir, flattery pleases very generally. In the first place, the flatterer may think what he says to be true; but in the second place, whether he thinks so or not, he certainly thinks those whom he flatters of consequence enough to be flattered.”



I know not how so whimsical a thought came into my mind, but I asked, "If, sir, you were shut up in a castle, and a new-born child with you, what would you do?" JOHNSON: "Why, sir, I should not much like my company?" BOSWELL: "But would you take the trouble of rearing it?" He seemed, as may well be supposed, unwilling to pursue the subject; but upon my persevering in my question, replied: "Why yes, sir, I would; but I must have all conveniences. If I had no garden I would make a shed on the roof, and take it there for fresh air. I should feed it, and wash it much, and with warm water to please it, not with cold water to give it pain." BOSWELL: "But, sir, does not heat relax?" JOHNSON: "Sir, you are not to imagine the water to be very hot. I would not coddle the child. No, sir, the hardy method of treating children does no good. I'll take you five children from London who shall cuff five Highland children. Sir, a man bred in London will carry a burden, or run, or wrestle, as well as a man brought up in the hardest manner in the country." BOSWELL: "Good living, I suppose, makes the Londoners strong." JOHNSON: "Why, sir, I don't know that it does. Our chairmen from Ireland, who are as strong men as any, have been brought up upon potatoes. Quantity makes up for quality.' BOSWELL: "Would you teach this child that I have furnished you with anything?" JOHNSON: "No, sir, I should not be apt

[ocr errors]

to teach it." BoSWELL: "Would you not have a pleasure in teaching it?" JOHNSON: "No, sir, I should not have a pleasure in teaching it." BOSWELL: "Have you not a pleasure in teaching men? There I have you. You have the same pleasure in teaching men that I should have in teaching children." JOHNSON: "Why, something about that."

When we were alone I introduced the subject of death, and endeavoured to maintain that the fear of it might be got over. I told him that David Hume said to me he was no more uneasy to think he should not be after his life than to think he had not been before he began to exist. JOHNSON: "Sir, if he really thinks so his perceptions are disturbed-he is mad. If he does not think so he lies. He may tell you he holds his finger in the flame of a candle without feeling pain-would you believe him? When he dies he at least gives up all that he has." BOSWELL: "Foote, sir, told me that when he was very ill he was not afraid to die." JOHNSON: "It is not true, sir. Hold a pistol to Foote's breast, or to Hume's breast, and threaten to kill them, and you'll see how they behave." BOSWELL: "But may we not fortify our minds against the approach of death?"-Here I am sensible I was in the wrong to bring before his view what he ever looked upon with horror; for, although, when in a celestial frame of mind in his " Vanity of Human Wishes," he has supposed death to be "kind Nature's signal for retreat" from this state of being to "a happier seat," his thoughts upon this awful change were, in general, full of dismal apprehensions. His mind resembled the vast amphitheatre, the Coliseum of Rome. In the centre stood his judgment, which like a mighty gladiator combated those apprehensions that, like the wild beasts of the arena, were all around in cells, ready to be let out upon him. After a conflict he drives them back into their dens; but not killing them they were still assailing him. To my question whether we might not fortify our minds for the approach of death, he answered, in a passion: "No, sir, let it alone. It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time." He added


(with an earnest look): "A man knows it must be so, and submits. It will do him no good to whine."

I attempted to renew the conversation. He was so provoked that he said: "Give us no more of this ;" and was thrown into such a state of agitation that he expressed himself in a way that alarmed and distressed me; showed an impatience that I should leave him, and when I was going away called to me sternly, "Don't let us meet


I went home exceedingly uneasy. All the harsh observations which I had ever heard made upon his character crowded into my mind; and I seemed to myself like the man who had put his head into the lion's mouth a great many times with perfect safety, but at last had it bitten


Next morning I sent him a note, stating that I might have been in the wrong, but it was not intentionally: he was therefore, I could not help thinking, too severe upon me. That, notwithstanding our agreement not to meet that day, I would call on him on my way to the city, and stay five minutes by my watch. "You are," said I," in my mind, since last night, surrounded with cloud and storm. Let us have a glimpse of sunshine, and go about my affairs in serenity and cheerfulness."

Upon entering his study I was glad that he was not alone, which would have made our meeting more awkward. My note had, on his own reflection, softened him, for he received me very complacently; so that I unexpectedly found myself at ease, and joined in the conversation.

I whispered to him: "Well, sir, you are now in a good humour." JOHNSON: "Yes, sir." I was going to leave him, and had got as far as the staircase. He stopped me, and smiling said: "Get you gone in"-a curious mode of inviting me to stay, which I accordingly did for some time longer.

This little incidental quarrel and reconciliation must be esteemed as one of many proofs which his friends had, that though he might be charged with bad humour at times, he was always a good-natured man; and I have heard Sir Joshua Reynolds, a nice and delicate observer of manners,

particularly remark that when, upon any occasion, Johnson had been rough to any person in company, he took the first opportunity of reconciliation by drinking to him, or addressing his discourse to him; but if he found his dignified indirect overtures sullenly neglected he was quite indifferent, and considered himself as having done all that he ought to do, and the other as now in the wrong.

A learned gentleman, who, in the course of conversation, wished to inform us of the simple fact that the counsel upon the circuit at Shrewsbury were much bitten by fleas, took, I suppose, seven or eight minutes in relating it circumstantially. He, in a plenitude of phrase, told us that large bales of woollen cloth were lodged in the Town Hall; that by reason of this fleas nestled there in prodigious numbers; that the lodgings of the counsel were near the Town Hall; and that those little animals moved from place to place with wonderful agility. Johnson sat in great impatience till the gentleman finished his tedious narrative, and then burst out (playfully, however): "It is a pity, sir, that you have not seen a lion; for a flea has taken you such a time that a lion must have served you a twelvemonth."



On the ninth of April, being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him on tea and cross buns; Doctor Johnson making the tea. He took me with him to the church of St. Clement Danes, where he had his seat; and his behaviour was, as I had imagined to myself, solemnly devout. I shall never forget the tremulous earnestness with which he pronounced the awful petition in the Litany: "In the hour of death and in the day of judgment, good Lord deliver us."

We went to church both in the morning and in the evening. In the interval between the two services we did not dine; but he read in the Greek New Testament, and I turned over several of his books.

To my great surprise he asked me to dine with him on

Easter-day. I never supposed that he had a dinner at his house; for I had not then heard of any one of his friends having been entertained at his table. He told me, “I have generally a meat-pie on Sunday; it is baked at a public oven, which is very properly allowed, because one man can attend it; and thus the advantage is obtained of not keeping servants from church to dress dinners."

April 11, 1773, being Easter-day, after having attended divine service at St. Paul's I repaired to Dr. Johnson's. I had gratified my curiosity much in dining with Jean Jacques Rousseau, while he lived in the wilds of Neuchatel: I had as great a curiosity to dine with Dr. Samuel Johnscn in the dusky recess of a court in Fleet Street. I supposed we should scarcely have knives and forks, and only some strange, uncouth, ill-dressed dish; but I found everything in very good order. We had no other company but Mrs. Williams, and a young woman whom I did not know. We had a very good soup, a boiled leg of lamb and spinach, a veal pie, and a rice pudding.

He told me that he had twelve or fourteen times attempted to keep a journal of his life, but never could persevere. He advised me to do it. "The great thing to be recorded," says he, "is the state of your own mind; and you should write down everything that you can remember, for you cannot judge at first what is good or bad; and write immediately while the impression is fresh, for it will not be the same a week afterwards."

Goldsmith was often very fortunate in his witty contests, even when he entered the lists with Johnson himself. Sir Joshua Reynolds was in company with them one day, when Goldsmith said that he thought he could write a good fable, mentioning the simplicity which that kind of composition requires, and observed that in most fables the animals seldom talk in character. "For instance," said he, "the fable of the little fishes who saw birds fly over their heads, and, envying them, petitioned Jupiter to be changed into birds. The skill," continued he, "consists in making them talk like little fishes." While he indulged himself in this fanciful reverie, he observed Johnson shaking his sides and laughing. Upon which he smartly

« 上一页继续 »