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degree of ill-will. He always kept those quarrels which belonged to him as a writer, separate from those which he had to do with as a man; but I never did hear him say in private one malicious word of a public enemy; and of Mr. Macpherson I once heard him speak respectfully, though his reply to the friend who asked him if any man living could have written such a book is well known, and has been often repeated: "Yes, Sir; many men, many women, and many children." I inquired of him myself if this story was authentic, and he said it was. I made the same inquiry concerning his account of the state of literature in Scotland, which was repeated up and down at one time by every body, -"How knowledge is divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful." This story he likewise acknowledged, and said besides, that "some officious friend had carried it to Lord Bute, who only answered, Well, well! never mind what he says will have the pension all one.""
Glasgow and Brentford. - View on the St. Lawrence.
Another famous reply to a Scotsman who commended the beauty and dignity of Glasgow, till Mr. Johnson stopped him by observing, that "he probably had never yet seen Brentford," was one of the jokes he owned: and said himself, that "when a gentleman of that country once mentioned the lovely prospects common in his nation, he could not help telling him, that the view of the London road was the prospect in which every Scotsman most naturally and most rationally delighted." Mrs. Brook received an answer not unlike this, when expatiating on the accumulation of sublime and beautiful objects, which form the fine prospect UP the river St. Lawrence in North America:-"Come, Madam," says Dr. Johnson, "confess that nothing ever equalled your pleasure in seeing that sight reversed; and finding yourself looking at the happy prospect DOWN the river St. Lawrence."
128. Gardening.- Country Life.
The truth is, he hated to hear about prospects and views, and laying out ground and taste in gardening: "That was the best garden," he said, "which produced most roots and fruits; and that water was most to be prized which contained most fish." He used to laugh at Shenstone most unmercifully for not caring whether there was any thing good to eat in the streams he was so fond of; "as if," says Johnson, "one could fill one's belly with hearing soft murmurs, or looking at rough cascades! He loved the sight of fine forest trees, however, and detested Brighthelmstone Downs, "because it was a country so truly desolate," he said, "that if one had a mind to hang one's self for desperation at being obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree on which to fasten the rope." Walking in a wood when it rained, was, I think, the only rural image he pleased his fancy with; "for," says he, "after one has gathered the apples in an orchard, one wishes them well baked, and removed to a London eating-house for enjoyment."
With such notions, who can wonder he passed his time uncomfortably enough with us, whom he often complained of for living so much in the country; "feeding the chickens," as he said I did, "till I starved my own understanding. Get, however," said he, "a book about gardening, and study it hard, since will you pass your life with birds and flowers, and learn to raise the largest turnips, and to breed the biggest fowls." It was vain to assure him that the goodness of such dishes did not depend upon their size; he laughed at the people who covered their canals with foreign fowls, "when," says he, "our own geese and ganders are twice as large: if we fetched better animals from distant nations, there might be some sense in the preference; but to get cows from Alderney, or water-fowl from China, only to see nature degenerating round one, is a poor ambition indeed."
1 [This reminds one of Caraccioli's remark, that "the only fruit in England that ripened in the open air were apples, for they were roasted."- FONNEREAU.]
Nor was Mr. Johnson more merciful with regard to the amusements people are contented to call such: "You hunt in the morning," says he, "and crowd to the public rooms at night, and call it diversion; when your heart knows it is perishing with poverty of pleasures, and your wits get blunted for want of some other mind to sharpen them upon. There is in this world no real delight (excepting those of sensuality), but exchange of ideas in conversation; and whoever has once experienced the full flow of London talk, when he retires to country friendships and rural sports, must either be contented to turn baby again and play with the rattle, or he will pine away like a great fish in a little pond, and die for want of his usual food.”
130. Knowledge of Life.
"Books without the knowledge of life are useless," I have heard him say; "for what should books teach but the art of living? To study manners however only in coffee-houses, is more than equally imperfect: the minds of men who acquire no solid learning, and only exist on the daily forage that they pick up by running about, and snatching what drops from their neighbours as ignorant as themselves, will never ferment into any knowledge valuable or durable; but like the light wines we drink in hot countries, please for the moment though incapable of keeping. In the study of mankind much will be found to swim as froth, and much must sink as feculence, before the wine can have its effect, and become that noblest liquor which rejoices the heart, and gives vigour to the imagination."
Fear of what others may think, is the great cause of affectation; and he was not likely to disguise his notions out of cowardice. He hated disguise, and nobody penetrated it so readily. I showed him a letter written to a common friend, who was at some loss for the explanation of it: "Whoever wrote it," says our Doctor, "could, if he
chose it, make himself understood; but 't is the letter of an embarrassed man, Sir;" and so the event proved it to be.
Mysteriousness in trifles offended him on every side: "it commonly ended in guilt," he said; "for those who begin by concealment of innocent things, will soon have something to hide which they dare not bring to light." He therefore encouraged an openness of conduct, in women particularly, "who," he observed, "who," he observed, "were often led away when children, by their delight and power of surprising.'
133. Superfluous Cunning. — Conferring Favours. He recommended, on something like the same principle, that when one person meant to serve another, he should not go about it slily, or, as we say, underhand, out of a false idea of delicacy, to surprise one's friend with an unexpected favour; "which, ten to one," says he, "fails to oblige your acquaintance, who had some reasons against such a mode of obligation, which you might have known but for that superfluous cunning which you think an elegance.
Oh! never be seduced by such silly pretences," continued he; "if a wench wants a good gown, do not give her a fine smelling-bottle, because that is more delicate; as I once knew a lady lend the key of her library to a poor scribbling dependant, as if she took the woman for an ostrich, that could digest iron." He said, indeed, that "women were very difficult to be taught the proper manner of conferring pecuniary favours: that they always gave too much money or too little; for that they had an idea of delicacy accompanying their gifts, so that they generally rendered them either useless or ridiculous.”
134. General Sarcasms.
He did indeed say very contemptuous things of our sex; but was exceedingly angry when I told Miss Reynolds that he said, "It was well managed of some one to leave his affairs in the hands of his wife, because, in matters of
business," said he, "no woman stops at integrity." This was, I think, the only sentence I ever observed him solicitous to explain away after he had uttered it.
He was not at all displeased at the recollection of a sarcasm thrown on a whole profession at once; when a gentleman leaving the company, somebody who sat next Dr. Johnson asked him, who he was? "I cannot exactly tell you, Sir," replied he, "and I would be loath to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an attorney." He did not however encourage general satire, and for the most part professed himself to feel directly contrary to Dr. Swift; "who," says he, "hates the world, though he loves John and Robert, and certain individuals." Johnson said always, that "the world was well constructed, but that the particular people disgraced the elegance and beauty of the general fabric."
Needle-work had a strenuous approver in Dr. Johnson, who said, that "one of the great felicities of female life, was the general consent of the world, that they might amuse themselves with petty occupations, which contributed to the lengthening their lives, and preserving their minds in a state of sanity." "A man cannot hem a pocket-handkerchief," said a lady of quality to him one day, "and so he runs mad, and torments his family and friends." The expression struck him exceedingly; and when one acquaintance grew troublesome, and another unhealthy, he used to quote Lady Frances's observation, that "a man cannot hem a pocket-handkerchief."
136. "Nice People."
The nice people found no mercy from Mr. Johnson; such I mean as can dine only at four o'clock, who cannot bear to be waked at an unusual hour, or miss a stated meal without inconvenience. He had no such prejudices himself, and with difficulty forgave them in another. "Delicacy does not surely consist," says he, "in im
[' Lady Frances Burgoyne, daughter of the last Lord Halifax. — C.]