Imágenes de páginas

cumstance somewhat unusual: his sight was near, and otherwise imperfect; yet his eyes, though of a lightgrey colour, were so wild, so piercing, and at times so fierce, that fear was I believe the first emotion in the hearts of all his beholders. His mind was so comprehensive, that no language but that he used could have expressed its contents; and so ponderous was his language, that sentiments less lofty and less solid than his were, would have been encumbered, not adorned by it.

As his purse was ever open to alms-giving, so was his heart tender to those who wanted relief, and his soul susceptible of gratitude, and of every kind impression yet though he had refined his sensibility, he had not endangered his quiet, by encouraging in himself a solicitude about trifles, which he treated with the contempt they deserve.


No man had stronger likings or aversions. His veracity was, indeed, from the most trivial to the most solemn occasions, strict even, to severity; he scorned to embellish a story with fictitious circumstances, which (he used to say) took off from its real value. A story (says Johnson) should be a specimen of life and manners; but if the surrounding circumstances are false, as it is no more a representation of reality, it is no longer worthy our attention.


[ocr errors]

Though a man of obscure birth himself, his partiality to people of family was visible on every occasion; his zeal for subordination warm even to bigotry; his hatred to innovation, and reverence for the old feudal times, apparent, whenever any possible manner of showing them occurred. I have spoken of his piety, his charity, and his truth, the enlargement of his heart, and the delicacy of his sentiments. The mind of this man was indeed expanded beyond the common limits of human nature, and stored with such a variety of knowledge, that I used to think it resembled a royal pleasure ground, where every plant, of every name and nation, flourished in the full perfection.

The account of our author from whence the foregoing passages have been extracted, abounds with interesting and


entertaining information, which the Editor of this volume begs leave to recommend to the public.

When the first Edition of these Beauties appeared, the account of Dr. Johnson, who was then living, was drawn from sources less to be depended upon: however, they were, though not so interesting, in general authentic.

These anecdotes of Mrs. Piozzi's, at once display close observation, great attention, a strong memory, a lively imagination, and an exalted mind. In a few words, a sound understanding, and a benevolent heart.

Doctor Johnson had some failings, from which the most perfect are not exempt; these are noticed by Mrs. P. with the delicacy of sincere friendship, whilst his virtues are most amiably displayed, as a pattern for others.

We will now entertain our Readers with a few Extracts from Mr. BOSWELL'S Description of a TOUR to the HEBRIDES, in which he accompanied the DocTOR.


LORD NORTH, at the instance of the late Mr. Thrale, had some notions of bringing Dr. Johnson into parliament; and they had two meetings for that purpose, to which it appears the Doctor" was nothing loth." His Lordship, however, doubting the success of such an experiment, afterwards declined it, which the Doctor could never forgive, "That fellow," he used sometimes to say, speaking of Lord North," has a mind as narrow as the neck of a vinegar-cruet.”—And at an-' other time, when mentioned as a minister-" No, Sir, there is at present no minister in parliament-Lord North's but the agent of a minister.”

Mr. Boswell telling the Doctor, that when he was young and freakish, he one night, at Drury-lane theatre, entertained the audience before the play by lowing like a cow. Soon after this, differing with Dr.


[ocr errors]

Johnson, upon some subject, the latter replied, "Nay, Sir, if you cannot talk better as a man, I'd have you still bellow like a cow."

The first night Dr. Johnson got to Edinburgh, walking up the High-street, arm in arm with Boswell, at a time when the well-known effluvia of that capital was pretty strong; his friend observed, "Well now, Doctor, we are at last in Scotland." "Yes, Sir," cried the Doctor, grumbling," I smell it in the dark."

Seeing a board on the great door of the Royal infirmary at Edinburgh, with this inscription, "Clean your feet," just after he had quitted the high church, which was at that time shamefully dirty, he turned about to Dr. Robertson-" there is no occasion for putting such a board as this at the doors of your churches."

Being asked to see the room at Dumferline, where Charles the First was born, he replied, "No, I know that he was born, and it is no matter where."

Speaking of the superior assiduity of the Scottish over the English clergy, in instructing their parishioners; Johnson replied, with some warmth, "I do not believe your people are better instructed; if they are, it is the blind leading the blind, for your clergy are not instructed themselves."

Having lost his oak stick in Mull, an inconsiderable little island in the Hebrides, he suspected his guide had stolen it--but his fellow-traveller endeavoured to persuade him it was not so, and that it would be restored him again, he replied-" No, Sir, it is not to be expected that any man in Mull, who has got it, will part with it, consider the value of such a piece of timber here.”


Talking of Dr. Kennicott's translation of the Bible, the company expressed a wish it might be quite faithful. Sir, I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth."



"I do not think the life of any literary man in England well written Beside the common incidents of

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

life, it should tell us his studies, his mode of livingthe means by which he attained to excellence, and his opinion of his own works."

He said, that Dr. Birch had more anecdotes than any man-Boswell observed," Dr. Percy had a great many, that he flowed with them like one of the Scotch brooks." "Sir, if Percy is like one of brooks your -Birch is like the river Thames-Birch excels Percy, as much as Percy excels Goldsmith."


Sir, they should be mixed like eating and exercise: the one digests the other.

Q. But is not the man of conversation the readier and more agreeable man?

A. Sir, he may have more money about him, but then you are to consider he has no fortune.


I am sorry I have not learned to play at cards-it is' very useful in life--as moderate play generates kindness and consolidates society.


If thoughtlessly given, we may neglect the most deserving objects; and as every man has but a certain proportion to give, if it is lavished upon those who first present themselves, there may be nothing left for such who have a better claim. A man should first relieve those who are nearly connected with him by whatever ties; and then, if he has any thing to spare, he may extend his bounty to a wider circle.


Speaking of the late Lord Chancellor, long before he came into that high office: "I honour Thurlow, Sir, he is a fine fellow-he looks for the truth in conversation, and in the research fairly puts his mind to your's."


[ocr errors]


Smoking has gone out.

To be sure it is a shocking thing, blowing smoke out of our mouths into other



[ocr errors]

people's mouth, eyes, and noses, and having the same thing done to us.


I remember when people in England changed a shirt only once a week.


Formerly good tradesmen had no fire but in the kitę chen, never in the parlour but on a Sunday. My father, who was a magistrate of Litchfield, lived thus. They never began to have a fire in the parlour, but on leaving off business, or some great revolution of their life.

[ocr errors]


Dr. Doddridge, he observed, was the author of one of the finest epigrams in the English language-it is in Orton's Life of him, the subject is his family motto, Dum Vivimus Vivamus."

[ocr errors]

"Live while you live, the Epicure would say,
"And feize the pleasures of the present day;
"Live while you live, the facred Preacher cries,
"And give to God each moment as it flies.
"Lord! in my views, let both united be,
"I live in pleasure, when I live to thee."


When he first heard of Foote's death, he exclaimed, "Then we have lost a man who has left a chasm in society, that will not readily be filled up."

At another time he observed, Foote had little or no principle-he is at times neither governed by goodmanners or discretion-and very little by affectionbut for a broad laugh the scoundrel has no fellow."

Q. by a lady. Pray, Doctor, don't you look upon Foote as an infidel?

A. No-Madam. No other than you may call dog an infidel, who does not know whether he believes

or not.



"The opinion that many people conceive of players being in private life the characters they represent on the stage, is very strong; Garrick told me (Dr. Johnson) that some years after he came on the stage, he re

« AnteriorContinuar »