Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Johnson against Garrick
By Sir Joshua Reynolds (17231792)
From Dialogues in Imitation of Dr. Johnsons Conversation
Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds
Reynolds. Let me alone, Ill bring him out (Aside). I have been thinking, Dr. Johnson, this morning, on a matter that has puzzled me very much; it is a subject that I daresay has often passed in your thoughts, and though I cannot, I dare say you have made up your mind upon it.
Reyn. Why, it is a very weighty matter. The subject I have been thinking upon is, predestination and freewill, two things I cannot reconcile together for the life of me; in my opinion, Dr. Johnson, freewill and foreknowledge cannot be reconciled.
Johns. No, sir, you meant no such thing; you meant only to show these gentlemen that you are not the man they took you to be, but that you think of high matters sometimes, and that you may have the credit of having it said that you held an argument with Sam Johnson on predestination and freewill; a subject of that magnitude as to have engaged the attention of the world, to have perplexed the wisdom of man for these two thousand years; a subject on which the fallen angels, who had not yet lost their original brightness, find themselves in wandering mazes lost. That such a subject would be discussed in the levity of convivial conversation, is a degree of absurdity beyond what is easily conceivable.
Johns. Sir, you never heard me say that David Garrick was a great man; you may have heard me say that Garrick was a good repeaterof other mens wordswords put into his mouth by other men: this makes but a faint approach towards being a great man.
Johns. Well, sir, in regard to conversation, I never discovered in the conversation of David Garrick any intellectual energy, any wide grasp of thought, any extensive comprehension of mind, or that he possessed any of those powers to which great could, with any degree of propriety, be applied.
Johns. Hold, sir, I have not donethere are, to be sure, in the laxity of colloquial speech, various kinds of greatness; a man may be a great tobacconist, a man may be a great painter, he may be likewise a great mimic: now you may be the one, and Garrick the other, and yet neither of you be great men.
Johns. You tease me, sir. Whatever you may have heard me say, no longer ago than last Wednesday, at Mr. Thrales table, I tell you I do not say so now: besides, as I said before, you may not have understood me, you misapprehended me, you may not have heard me.