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MARGINAL NOTES ON BOSWELL'S LIFE OF
On the friendship between Warburton and Richardson: Very curious, and an odd friendship somehow between men so completely dissimilar. The elephant and zebra drawing together.
On a story of a clergyman preaching to convicts about to be hanged and promising them a continuation of his discourse: Like the hangman, who when some generous fellow gave him a guinea, cried out, "Long life to your honour," whilst he was tying the knot.
In reference to a parody of Johnson's style under the title of "Lexiphanes" (1767): It vexed him however, I well remember.
On the reported remark that no child has affection for a parent whom it has not seen: No nor whom it has seen, I believe, except by chance.
Johnson to Boswell, 1772. "Mrs. Thrale loves you." Not I. I never loved him.
As to Lady Emily Harvey having been mad: She was never mad as I know of. Seven years after this date, or more, we met in a library at Brighthelmstone. "Don't
* Most of her marginal notes on Boswell have been used for the Introduction.
you remember your old acquaintance Dr. Johnson?" said she. "Ah, Lady Emily! have you left off your old tricks?" was the reply. "All the bad ones, I hope," answered Lady Emily, coldly, and turned away.
On Goldsmith: Who would believe Goldy when he told of a ghost? A man whom one could not believe when he told of a brother. It is questionable now whether he had a brother or not.
Boswell. "Would you not allow a man to drink for that reason (to make him forget what is disagreeable)?" Johnson."Yes, Sir, if he sate next you.” Dr. Johnson said: "The man compels me to treat him so."
"You continue to stand high with Mrs. Thrale,” (Johnson to Boswell, February 22nd, 1773.) Poor Mrs. Thrale was obliged to say so in order to keep well with Johnson.
On the story of the tallow-chandler and melting day: It was Murphy's story originally, who always told it of dripping night, instead of melting day.
On a passage in Johnson's letter, August 27th, 1775, to Boswell: "She has a great regard for you." Not never had: I thought him a clever and a comical
Johnson to Boswell.-"Have you no better manners? That is your want" (1770). So it was. Curiosity carried Boswell farther than it ever carried any mortal breathing. He cared not what he provoked so as he saw what such a one would say or do.
On the remark that Lord Lyttelton employed an
other man to point (stop) his history: Yes, a corkcutter.
As to Dr. Dodd: If the King could have saved any man it would have been Ryland, whom he personally loved; but having tried his interest for that man, "Now," said he, "if I am ever solicited to pardon for forgery, you shall be made to remember these arguments."
On it being said that Pope's sorrowful reflection, that all things would be as gay as ever on the day of his death, is natural and common: I don't know how common, but not natural in the least to me. I am glad other people go on if I am forced to stop.
On Johnson's declaration of readiness to sit up all night being called an animated speech from a man of sixty-eight: Not from Johnson, who delighted to sit up all night and lie in bed all day.
"I have been put so to the question by Bozzy, this morning," said Dr. Johnson, one day, "that I am now panting for breath." "What sort of questions did he ask, I wonder?" "Why, one question was:- 'Pray, Sir, can you tell why an apple is round and a pear pointed?' Would not such talk make a man hang himself?"
"Pennant has the true spirit of a gentleman." (Johnson, as reported by Boswell): So he has. I wish he had the style of a gentleman; but his perverse imitation of countinghouse brevity, leaving the personal pronoun out so perpetually, teazes a reader more than one could imagine. His style resembles a letter
in the "Spectator" recommending Whittington to the Temple of Fame.
Bozzy was like a man in Mrs. Inchbald's comedies, I forget his name, who brings people together for his own sport, and they sometimes quarrel, but make it up so often that he is at length happily persuaded of his own benevolence.
On Boswell's saying that she had mistaken sutile for futile. It was no mistake. As pictures they are futile; so are Miss Linwood's. The moth, the sunshine, every thing may destroy the beautiful work. Alas!* On Boswell's fearing to go into a world where Shakspeare is unknown. shall die," says Cowley.
however, that we may not
"And Virgil's sacred work Note: I am not so sure,
repeat Virgil, as I am that
we shall not see the pictures of Raphael and Correggio. They must be taken from us I fear. The verses may be remembered.
As to wine unlocking the heart. "Wine," says the
* Dr. Lort, writing to Bishop Percy, says: "I take for granted that you have read Dr. Johnson's Correspondence, published by Mrs. Piozzi: and though you might not have been sorry to have read the whole, yet I wish, for the Doctor's sake, that only half of it had been printed. In one letter it is said, 'I have seen Mrs. Knowles, the quaker, and her futile pictures;' it should be sutile, a word, though not to be found in his Dictionary, yet very aptly made to express the mode of painting, viz. in needlework, of which sort there are two portraits of the king and queen made by Mrs. Knowles at Buckingham House. I desired a sight of the original letter in order to determine a wager. There it plainly appeared that a dash had been put across the long s, Johnson's usual mode of writing that letter, perhaps by the printer or corrector of the press."
orator in Esdras, "enables a man to speak with his talent."
"And a new thought is a very uncommon thing in conversation, even of witty men." (Johnson.) A new thought is like a new coin, and has more glitter but not more weight than the expression we have long been used to.
"Querulousness of old age." (Malone, as quoted by Boswell.) Was not Johnson querulous? In whom else would such querulousness have been endured? On Johnson's saying of Beauclerc, "No man was ever so free, when he was going to say a good thing, from a look that expressed that it was coming; or, when he had said it, from a look that expressed that it had come." Note: Yes, Beauclerc was first upon the languid list of Ton people. Dr. Johnson, who was all emphasis himself, felt épris of such a character: a man of quality who disdained effect in conversation, to which he never came unprepared.
Otway's hag is a very fine one; completely what you see every day. Yet he makes it impress you at the fiftieth reading :
"Oh, seen for ever, yet for ever new
can be applied only to Otway's hag.
"The truth is, it is impossible perfectly to translate poetry. In a different language it
may be the same tune, but it has not the same tone. Homer plays it on a bassoon: Pope on a flageolet."- Boswell. Homer played on the organ: Pope on the Cremona fiddle.