'Yet no character is described.' JOHNSON. 'No; they all develope themselves. Agamemnon is always a gentleman-like character; he has always [Greek: Basilikon ti]. That the ancients held so, is plain from this; that Euripides, in his Hecuba, makes him the person to interpose.' MONBODDO. 'The history of manners is the most valuable. I never set a high value on any other history.' JOHNSON. 'Nor I; and therefore I esteem biography, as giving us what comes near to ourselves, what we can turn to use.' BOSWELL. 'But in the course of general history, we find manners. In wars, we see the dispositions of people, their degrees of humanity, and other particulars.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; but then you must take all the facts to get this; and it is but a little you get.' MONBODDO. 'And it is that little which makes history valuable.' Bravo! thought I; they agree like two brothers. MONBODDO. 'I am sorry, Dr. Johnson, you were not longer at Edinburgh to receive the homage of our men of learning.' JOHNSON. 'My lord, I received great respect and great kindness.' BOSWELL. 'He goes back to Edinburgh after our tour.' We talked of the decrease of learning in Scotland, and of the Muses' Welcome. JOHNSON. 'Learning is much decreased in England, in my remembrance.' MONBODDO. 'You, Sir, have lived to see its decrease in England, I its extinction in Scotland.' However, I brought him to confess that the High School of Edinburgh did well. JOHNSON. 'Learning has decreased in England, because learning will not do so much for a man as formerly. There are other ways of getting preferment. Few bishops are now made for their learning. To be a bishop, a man must be learned in a learned age,--factious in a factious age; but always of eminence. Warburton is an exception; though his learning alone did not raise him. He was first an antagonist to Pope, and helped Theobald to publish his Shakspeare; but, seeing Pope the rising man, when Crousaz attacked his Essay on Man, for some faults which it has, and some which it has not, Warburton defended it in the Review of that time. This brought him acquainted with Pope, and he gained his friendship. Pope introduced him to Allen, Allen married him to his niece: so, by Allen's interest and his own, he was made a bishop. But then his learning was the sine qua non: he knew how to make the most of it; but I do not find by any dishonest means.' MONBODDO. 'He is a great man.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; he has great knowledge,--great power of mind. Hardly any man brings greater variety of learning to bear upon his point.' MONBODDO. 'He is one of the greatest lights of your church.' JOHNSON. 'Why, we are not so sure of his being very friendly to us. He blazes, if you will, but that is not always the steadiest light. Lowth is another bishop who has risen by his learning.'
Dr. Johnson examined young Arthur, Lord Monboddo's son, in Latin. He answered very well; upon which he said, with complacency, 'Get you gone! When King James comes back, you shall be in the Muses Welcome!' My lord and Dr. Johnson disputed a little, whether the Savage or the London Shopkeeper had the best existence; his lordship, as usual, preferring the Savage. My lord was extremely hospitable, and I saw both Dr. Johnson and him liking each other better every hour.
Dr. Johnson having retired for a short time, his lordship spoke of his conversation as I could have wished. Dr. Johnson had said, 'I have done greater feats with my knife than this;' though he had eaten a very hearty dinner. My lord, who affects or believes he follows an abstemious system, seemed struck with Dr. Johnson's manner of living. I had a particular satisfaction in being under the roof of Monboddo, my lord being my father's old friend, and having been always very good to me. We were cordial together. He asked Dr. Johnson and me to stay all night. When I said we must be at Aberdeen, he replied, 'Well, I am like the Romans: I shall say to you, "Happy to come;--happy to depart!"' He thanked Dr. Johnson for his visit.
JOHNSON. 'I little thought, when I had the honour to meet your Lordship in London, that I should see you at Monboddo.'
After dinner, as the ladies were going away, Dr. Johnson would stand up. He insisted that politeness was of great consequence in society. 'It is, (said he,) fictitious benevolence. It supplies the place of it amongst those who see each other only in publick, or but little. Depend upon it, the want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other. I have always applied to good breeding, what Addison in his Cato says of honour:--
"Honour's a sacred tie; the law of Kings; The noble mind's distinguishing perfection, That aids and strengthens Virtue where it meets her; And imitates her actions where she is not."'
When he took up his large oak stick, he said, 'My lord, that's Homerick;' thus pleasantly alluding to his lordship's favourite writer.
Gory, my lord's black servant, was sent as our guide, to conduct us to the high road.