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Table of Contents / Preface (8 references)

Dr Samuel Johnson's character, religious, moral, political, and literary, nay his figure and manner, are, I believe, more generally known than those of almost any man; yet it may not be superfluous here to attempt a sketch of him. Let my readers then remember that he was a sincere and zealous Christian, of high Church of England and monarchical principles, which he would not tamely suffer to be questioned; steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of piety and virtue, both from a regard to the order of society, and from a veneration for the Great Source of all order; correct, nay stern in his taste; hard to please, and easily offended, impetuous and irritable in his temper, but of a most humane and benevolent heart; having a mind stored with a vast and various collection of learning and knowledge, which he communicated with peculiar perspicuity and force, in rich and choice expression. He united a most logical head with a most fertile imagination, which gave him an extraordinary advantage in arguing; for he could reason close or wide, as he saw best for the moment. He could, when he chose it, be the greatest sophist that ever wielded a weapon in the schools of declamation; but he indulged this only in conversation; for he owned he sometimes talked for victory; he was too conscientious to make errour permanent and pernicious, by deliberately writing it. He was conscious of his superiority. He loved praise when it was brought to him; but was too proud to seek for it. He was somewhat susceptible of flattery. His mind was so full of imagery, that he might have been perpetually a poet. It has been often remarked, that in his poetical pieces, which it is to be regretted are so few, because so excellent, his style is easier than in his prose. There is deception in this: it is not easier, but better suited to the dignity of verse; as one may dance with grace, whose motions, in ordinary walking--in the common step--are awkward. He had a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking: yet, though grave and awful in his deportment, when he thought it necessary or proper, he frequently indulged himself in pleasantry and sportive sallies. He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous, and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He had a loud voice, and a slow deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation. Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry, and some truth, that 'Dr Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bow-wow way': but I admit the truth of this only on some occasions. The Messiah, played upon the Canterbury organ, is more sublime than when played upon an inferior instrument: but very slight musick will seem grand, when conveyed to the ear through that majestick medium. WHILE THEREFORE DOCTOR JOHNSON'S SAYINGS ARE READ, LET HIS MANNER BE TAKEN ALONG WITH THEM. Let it however be observed, that the sayings themselves are generally great; that, though he might be an ordinary composer at times, he was for the most part a Handel. His person was large, robust, I may say approaching to the gigantick, and grown unwieldy from corpulency. His countenance was naturally of the craft of an ancient statue, but somewhat disfigured by the scars of that evil, which, it was formerly imagined, the royal touch could cure. He was now in his sixty-fourth year, and was become a little dull of hearing. His sight had always been somewhat weak; yet, so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his perceptions were uncommonly quick and accurate. His head, and sometimes also his body, shook with a kind of motion like the effect of a palsy: he appeared to be frequently disturbed by cramps, or convulsive contractions, [Footnote: Such they appeared to me: but since the first edition, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me, 'that Dr Johnson's extraordinary gestures were only habits, in which he indulged himself at certain times. When in company, where he was not free, or when engaged earnestly in conversation, he never gave way to such habits, which proves that they were not involuntary', I still however think, that these gestures were involuntary; for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in the publick streets.] of the nature of that distemper called St Vitus's dance. He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted-hair buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute particulars. Every thing relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow, told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, instead of buckles. When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules have his club; and, by-and-by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and produce a good joke.

Chapter 4 (8 references)

I told him the port here was the mouth of the river or water of Leith. 'Not LETHE,' said Mr Nairne. 'Why, sir,' said Dr Johnson, 'when a Scotchman sets out from this port for England, he forgets his native country.' NAIRNE. 'I hope, sir, you will forget England here.' JOHNSON. 'Then 'twill be still more Lethe.' He observed of the pier or quay, 'you have no occasion for so large a one: your trade does not require it: but you are like a shopkeeper who takes a shop, not only for what he has to put into it, but that it may be believed he has a great deal to put into it'. It is very true, that there is now, comparatively, little trade upon the eastern coast of Scotland. The riches of Glasgow shew how much there is in the west; and perhaps we shall find trade travel westward on a great scale, as well as a small.

Chapter 5 (8 references)

We rose much refreshed. I had with me a map of Scotland, a Bible, which was given me by Lord Mountstuart when we were together in Italy, and Ogden's Sermons on Prayer. Mr Nairne introduced us to Dr Watson, whom we found a well-informed man, of very amiable manners. Dr Johnson, after they were acquainted, said, 'I take great delight in him.' His daughter, a very pleasing young lady, made breakfast. Dr Watson observed, that Glasgow University had fewer home-students, since trade increased, as learning was rather incompatible with it. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, as trade is now carried on by subordinate hands, men in trade have as much leisure as others; and now learning itself is a trade. A man goes to a bookseller, and gets what he can. We have done with patronage. In the infancy of learning, we find some great man praised for it. This diffused it among others. When it becomes general, an author leaves the great, and applies to the multitude.' BOSWELL. 'It is a shame that authors are not now better patronized.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir. If learning cannot support a man, if he must sit with his hands across till somebody feeds him, it is as to him a bad thing, and it is better as it is. With patronage, what flattery! What falsehood! While a man is in equilibria, he throws truth among the multitude, and lets them take it as they please: in patronage, he must say what pleases his patron, and it is an equal chance whether that be truth or falsehood.' WATSON. 'But is not the case now, that, instead of flattering one person, we flatter the age?' JOHNSON. 'No, sir. The world always lets a man tell what he thinks, his own way. I wonder however, that so many people have written, who might have let it alone. That people should endeavour to excel in conversation, I do not wonder; because in conversation praise is instantly reverberated.'

Chapter 69 (8 references)

Here we discovered from the conjectures which were formed, that the people on the main land were intirely ignorant of our motions; for in a Glasgow news-paper we found a paragraph, which, as it contains a just and well-turned compliment to my illustrious friend, I shall insert:

Chapter 70 (8 references)

This day we visited the ruins of Macbeth's castle at Inverness. I have had great romantick satisfaction in seeing Johnson upon the classical scenes of Shakspeare in Scotland; which I really looked upon as almost as improbable as that 'Birnam wood should come to Dunsinane'. Indeed, as I have always been accustomed to view him as a permanent London object, it would not be much more wonderful to me to see St Paul's church moving along where we now are. As yet we have travelled in postchaises; but to-morrow we are to mount on horseback, and ascend into the mountains by Fort Augustus, and so on to the ferry, where we are to cross to Sky. We shall see that island fully, and then visit some more of the Hebrides; after which we are to land in Argyleshire, proceed by Glasgow to Auchinleck, repose there a competent time, and then return to Edinburgh, from whence the Rambler will depart for old England again, as soon as he finds it convenient. Hitherto we have had a very prosperous expedition. I flatter myself servetur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit. He is in excellent spirits, and I have a rich Journal of his conversation. Look back, Davy, [Footnote: I took the liberty of giving this familiar appellation to my celebrated friend, to bring in a more lively manner to his remembrance the period when he was Dr Johnson's pupil.] to Litchfield; run up through the time that has elapsed since you first knew Mr Johnson, and enjoy with me his present extraordinary tour. I could not resist the impulse of writing to you from this place. The situation of the old castle corresponds exactly to Shakspeare's description. While we were there to-day, it happened oddly, that a raven perched upon one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I in my turn repeated,

Chapter 71 (8 references)

I told Dr Johnson I was in some difficulty how to act at Inveraray. I had reason to think that the Duchess of Argyle disliked me, on account of my zeal in the Douglas cause; but the Duke of Argyle had always been pleased to treat me with great civility. They were now at the castle, which is a very short walk from our inn; and the question was, whether I should go and pay my respects there. Dr Johnson, to whom I had stated the case, was clear that I ought; but, in his usual way, he was very shy of discovering a desire to be invited there himself. Though from a conviction of the benefit of subordination to society, he has always shewn great respect to persons of high rank, when he happened to be in their company, yet his pride of character has ever made him guard against any appearance of courting the great. Besides, he was impatient to go to Glasgow, where he expected letters. At the same time he was, I believe, secretly not unwilling to have attention paid him by so great a chieftain, and so exalted a nobleman. He insisted that I should not go to the castle this day before dinner, as it would look like seeking an invitation. 'But,' said I, 'if the duke invites us to dine with him to-morrow, shall we accept?' 'Yes, sir,' I think he said, 'to be sure.' But, he added, 'He won't ask us!' I mentioned, that I was afraid my company might be disagreeable to the duchess. He treated this objection with a manly disdain: 'THAT, sir, he must settle with his wife.' We dined well. I went to the castle just about the time when I supposed the ladies would be retired from dinner. I sent in my name; and, being shewn in, found the amiable duke sitting at the head of his table with several gentlemen. I was most politely received, and gave his grace some particulars of the curious journey which I had been making with Dr Johnson. When we rose from table, the duke said to me, 'I hope you and Dr Johnson will dine with us to-morrow.' I thanked his grace; but told him, my friend was in a great hurry to get back to London. The duke, with a kind complacency, said, 'He will stay one day; and I will take care he shall see this place to advantage.' I said, I should be sure to let him know his grace's invitation. As I was going away, the duke said, 'Mr Boswell, won't you have some tea?' I thought it best to get over the meeting with the duchess this night; so respectfully agreed. I was conducted to the drawing-room by the duke, who announced my name; but the duchess, who was sitting with her daughter, Lady Betty Hamilton, and some other ladies, took not the least notice of me. I should have been mortified at being thus coldly received by a lady of whom I, with the rest of the world, have always entertained a very high admiration, had I not been consoled by the obliging attention of the duke.

Chapter 75 (8 references)

Mr Smollet pleased Dr Johnson, by producing a collection of news-papers in the time of the Usurpation, from which it appeared that all sorts of crimes were very frequent during that horrible anarchy. By the side of the high road to Glasgow, at some distance from his house, he had erected a pillar to the memory of his ingenious kinsman, Dr Smollet; and he consulted Dr Johnson as to an inscription for it. Lord Kames, who, though he had a great store of knowledge, with much ingenuity, and uncommon activity of mind, was no profound scholar, had it seems recommended an English inscription. Dr Johnson treated this with great contempt, saying 'An English inscription would be a disgrace to Dr Smollet'; and, in answer to what Lord Kames had urged, as to the advantage of its being in English, because it would be generally understood, I observed, that all to whom Dr Smollet's merit could be an object of respect and imitation, would understand it as well in Latin; and that surely it was not meant for the Highland drovers, or other such people, who pass and repass that way.

Chapter 76 (8 references)

Professors Reid and Anderson, and the two Messieurs Foulis, the Elzevirs of Glasgow, dined and drank tea with us at our inn, after which the professors went away; and I, having a letter to write, left my fellow-traveller with Messieurs Foulis. Though good and ingenious men, they had that unsettled speculative mode of conversation which is offensive to a man regularly taught at an English school and university. I found that, instead of listening to the dictates of the Sage, they had teazed him with questions and doubtful disputations. He came in a flutter to me, and desired I might come back again, for he could not bear these men. 'O ho! sir,' said I, 'you are flying to me for refuge!' He never, in any situation, was at a loss for a ready repartee. He answered, with quick vivacity, 'It is of two evils chooseing the least.' I was delighted with this flash bursting from the cloud which hung upon his mind, closed my letter directly, and joined the company.