Monday, 20th September
When I awaked, the storm was higher still. It abated about nine, and the sun shone; but it rained again very soon, and it was not a day for travelling. At breakfast, Dr Johnson told us, 'there was once a pretty good tavern in Catharine Street in the Strand, where very good company met in an evening, and each man called for his own half pint of wine, or gill, if he pleased: they were frugal men, and nobody paid but for what he himself drank. The house furnished no supper; but a woman attended with mutton-pies, which any body might purchase. I was introduced to this company by Cumming the Quaker, and used to go there sometimes when I drank wine. In the last age, when my mother lived in London, there were two sets of people, those who gave the wall, and those who took it; the peaceable and the quarrelsome. When I returned to Lichfield, after having been in London, my mother asked me, whether I was one of those who gave the wall, or those who took it. Now, it is fixed that every man keeps to the right; or, if one is taking the wall, another yields it, and it is never a dispute.' He was very severe on a lady, whose name was mentioned. He said, he would have sent her to St Kilda. That she was as bad as negative badness could be, and stood in the way of what was good: that insipid beauty would not go a great way; and that such a woman might be cut out of a cabbage, if there was a skilful artificer.
M'Leod was too late in coming to breakfast. Dr Johnson said, laziness was worse than the toothache. BOSWELL. 'I cannot agree with you, sir; a bason of cold water, or a horse whip, will cure laziness.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir; it will only put off the fit; it will not cure the disease. I have been trying to cure my laziness all my life, and could not do it.' BOSWELL. 'But if a man does in a shorter time what might be the labour of a life, there is nothing to be said against him.' JOHNSON (perceiving at once that I alluded to him and his Dictionary). 'Suppose that flattery to be true, the consequence would be, that the world would have no right to censure a man; but that will not justify him to himself.'
After breakfast, he said to me, 'A Highland chief should now endeavour to do every thing to raise his rents, by means of the industry of his people. Formerly, it was right for him to have his house full of idle fellows; they were his defenders, his servants, his dependants, his friends. Now they may be better employed. The system of things is now so much altered, that the family cannot have influence but by riches, because it has no longer the power of ancient feudal times. An individual of a family may have it; but it cannot now belong to a family, unless you could have a perpetuity of men with the same views. M'Leod has four times the land that the Duke of Bedford has. I think, with his spirit, he may in time make himself the greatest man in the king's dominions; for land may always be improved to a certain degree. I would never have any man sell land, to throw money into the funds, as is often done, or to try any other species of trade. Depend upon it, this rage of trade will destroy itself. You and I shall not see it; but the time will come when there will be an end of it. Trade is like gaming. If a whole company are gamesters, play must cease; for there is nothing to be won. When all nations are traders, there is nothing to be gained by trade, and it will stop first where it is brought to the greatest perfection. Then the proprietors of land only will be the great men.' I observed, it was hard that M'Leod should find ingratitude in so many of his people. JOHNSON. 'Sir, gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.' I doubt of this. Nature seems to have implanted gratitude in all living creatures. The lion, mentioned by Aulus Gellius, had it. [Footnote: Aul. Gellius, Lib. v. c. xiv.] It appears to me that culture, which brings luxury and selfishness with it, has a tendency rather to weaken than promote this affection.
Dr Johnson said this morning, when talking of our setting out, that he was in the state in which Lord Bacon represents kings. He desired the end, but did not like the means. He wished much to get home, but was unwilling to travel in Sky. 'You are like kings too in this, sir,' said I, 'that you must act under the direction of others.'