« ZurückWeiter »
We talked of languages. Johnson observed that
Leibnitz had made some progress in a work, tracing all Etat. 63. languages up to the Hebrew.
Why, Sir, (said he,) you would not imagine that the French jour, day, is derived from the Latin dies, and yet nothing is more certain ; and the intermediate steps are very clear. From dies, comes diurnus. Diu is, by inaccurate ears, or inaccurate pronunciation, easily confounded with gui; then the Italians form à substantive of the ablative of an adjective, and thence giurno, or, as they make it giorno : which is readily contracted into giour, or jour.” He observed, that the Bohemian language, was true Sclavonick. The Swede said, it had some similarity with the German. Johnson.“ Why, Sir, to be sure, such parts of Sclavonia as confine with Germany, will borrow German words; and such parts as confine with Tartary will borrow Tartar words.
He said, he never had it properly ascertained that the Scotch Highlanders and the Irish understood each other. I told him that my Cousin Colonel Graham, of the Royal Highlanders, whom I met at Drogheda, told me they did. JOHNSON.
JOHNSON. “ Sir, if the Highlanders understood Irish, why translate the New Testament into Erse, as was lately done at Edinburgh, when there is an Irish translation ?” Boswell. “Although the Erse and Irish are both dialects of the same language, there may be a good deal of diversity between them, as between the different dialects in Italy.”—The Swede went away, and Mr. Johnson continued his reading of the papers. I said, “ I am afraid, Sir, it is troublesome.” Why, Sir, (said he,) I do not take much delight in it; but I'll go through it."
We went to the Mitre, and dined in the room where he and I first supped together. He gave me great hopes of my cause. Sir, (said he,) the government of a schoolmaster is somewhat of the nature of military government ; that is to say, it must be arbitrary, it must be exercised by the will of one man, according to particular circumstances. You must shew some learning upon this occasion. You must shew, that a schoolmaster has a prescriptive right to beat ; and that an action
of assault and battery cannot be admitted against him, 1772. unless there is some great excess, some barbarity. This was man has maimed none of his boys. They are all left 63. with the full exercise of their corporeal faculties. In our schools in England, many boys have been maimed; yet I never heard of an action against a schoolmaster on that account. Puffendorff, I think, maintains the right of a schoolmaster to beat his scholars."
On Saturday, March 27, I introduced to him Şir Alexander Macdonald, with whom he had expressed a wish to be acquainted. He received him very cour- . teously.
Sir Alexander observed, that the Chancellors in England are chosen from views much inferiour to the office, being chosen from temporary political views. Johnson. “Why, Sir, in such a government as ours, no man is appointed to an office because he is the fittest for it, nor hardly in any other
government; because there are so many connections and dependencies to be studied. A despotick prince may choose a man to an office, merely because he is the fittest for it. The King of Prussia may do it.” SIR A. “ I think, Sir, almost all great lawyers, such at least as have written upon law, have known only law, and nothing else." JOHNSON. Why no, Sir ; Judge Hale was a great lawyer, and wrote upon law; and yet he knew a great many other things, and has written upon other things. Selden too." SIR A. " Very true, Sir; and Lord Bacon. But was not Lord Coke a mere lawyer ?” JOHNSON.
Why, I am afraid he was ; but he would have taken it very ill if you had told him so. He would have prosecuted you for scandal.” Boswell. “Lord Mansfield is not a mere lawyer.” Johnson. “ No, Sir, I never was in Lord Mansfield's company ; but Lord Mansfield was distinguished at the University. Lord Mansfield, when he first came to town, drank champagne with the wits,' as Prior says. He was the friend of Pope.” Sir A. “ Barristers, I believe, are not so abusive now as they were formerly. I fancy they had less law long ago, and so were obliged to take to abuse, to fill up the time. Now they have such a number of
1772. precedents, they have no occasion for abuse." John-
crease in course of time ; but the more precedents there
be found out to be a Devonshire man. So most
Upon another occasion I talked to him on this subject, having myself taken some pains to improve my pronunciation, by the aid of the late Mr. Love, of Drurylane theatre, when he was a player at Edinburgh, and also of old Mr. Sheridan. Johnson said to me, Sir, your pronunciation is not offensive.” With this concession I was pretty well satisfied ; and let me give my countrymen of North-Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this respect ; not to speak High English, as we are apt to call what is far removed from the Scotch, but which is by no means good English, and makes, “ the fools who use it,” truly ridiculous. Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth
of an unaffected English Gentleman. A studied and 1772. factitious pronunciation, which requires perpetual atten
Ætat. tion, and imposes perpetual constraint, is exceedingly 63. disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were all exactly alike. I could name some gentlemen of Ireland, to whom a slight proportion of the accent and recitative of that country is an advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland. I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous member of Parliament from that country; though it has been well observed, that "it has been of no small use to him ; as it rouses the attention of the House by its uncommonness : and is equal to tropes and figures in a good English speaker.” I would give as an instance of what I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot; and may I presume to add that of the present Earl of Marchmont, who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a shop in London, where he was not known, said to him, “ I suppose, Sir, you are an American." " Why so, Sir?” (said his Lordship.) “ Because, Sir, (replied the shopkeeper,) you speak neither English nor Scotch, but something different from both, which I conclude is the language of America.”
Boswell.“ It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation.” Johnson.
Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the accent of words, if you can but remember them.” Boswell. “ But, Sir, we want marks to ascertain the pronunciation of the vowels. Sheridan, I believe, has finished such a work.” Johnson. " Why, Sir, consider how much easier it is to learn a language by the ear, than by any marks. Sheridan's Dictionary may do very well; but you cannot always carry it about with you: and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary. It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw. It is an admirable sword, to be sure: but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it.
1772. Besides, Sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunEtat. ciation of English? He has, in the first place, the dis63. advantage of being an Irishman : and if he says he will
fix it after the example of the best company, why they differ among themselves. I remember an instance : when I published the Plan for my Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be
pronounced so as to rhyme to state ; and Sir William Yonge sent me word that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait. Now here were two men of the highest rank, the one, the best speaker in the House of Lords, the other, the best speaker in the House of Commons, differing entirely.”
I again visited him at night. Finding him in a very good humour, I ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point. Johnson.
Why, Sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of God, in the contemplation of truth, and in the possession of felicitating ideas.” BosweLL.“ But, Sir, is there any harm in our forming to ourselves conjectures as to the particulars of our happiness, though the scripture has said but very little on the subject ! • We know not what we shall be.” Johnson. “ Sir, there is no harm. What philosophy suggests to us on this topick is probable: what scripture tells us is certain. Dr. Henry More has carried it as far as philosophy can. You may buy both his theological and philosophical works in two volumes folio, for about eight shillings.” BoswELL. 6. One of the most pleasing thoughts is, that we shall see our friends again.”. Johnson. “Yes, Sir; but you must consider, that when we are become purely rational, many of our friendships will be cut off. Many friendships are formed by a community of sensual pleasures : all these will be cut off. We form many friendships with bad men, because they have agreeable qualities, and they can be useful to us ; but,
(Bishop Hall, in his Epistle, “ discoursing of the different degrees of heavenly glory, and of our mutual knowledge of each other above,” (Dec. iii. c. 6) holds the affirmative on both these questions. M.)