Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
 
Johnson against Garrick
By Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)
 
From Dialogues in Imitation of Dr. Johnson’s Conversation

Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds

  Reynolds.  Let me alone, I’ll 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.
  1
  Johnson.  Tilly fally! what is all this preparation, what is all this mighty matter?  2
  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.  3
  Johns.  Sir, it is not of very great importance what your opinion is upon such a question.  4
  Reyn.  But I meant only, Dr. J., to know your opinion.  5
  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.  6
  Reyn.  It is so, as you say, to be sure; I talked once to our friend Garrick upon this subject, but I remember we could make nothing of it.  7
  Johns.  O noble pair!  8
  Reyn.  Garrick was a clever fellow, Dr. J.: Garrick, take him altogether, was certainly a very great man.  9
  Johns.  Garrick, sir, may be a great man in your opinion, so far as I know, but he was not so in mine; little things are great to little men.  10
  Reyn.  I have heard you say, Dr. Johnson—  11
  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 repeater—of other men’s words—words put into his mouth by other men: this makes but a faint approach towards being a great man.  12
  Reyn.  But take Garrick upon the whole, now, in regard to conversation—  13
  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.  14
  Reyn.  But still—  15
  Johns.  Hold, sir, I have not done—there 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.  16
  Reyn.  But, Dr. Johnson—  17
  Johns.  Hold, sir, I have often lamented how dangerous it is to investigate and to discriminate character, to men who have no discriminative powers.  18
  Reyn.  But Garrick as a companion, I heard you say—no longer ago than last Wednesday, at Mr. Thrale’s table—  19
  Johns.  You tease me, sir. Whatever you may have heard me say, no longer ago than last Wednesday, at Mr. Thrale’s 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.  20
  Reyn.  I am very sure I heard you.  21
  Johns.  Besides, besides, sir, besides,—do you not know,—are you so ignorant as not to know, that it is the highest degree of rudeness to quote a man against himself?  22
  Reyn.  But if you differ from yourself, and give one opinion to-day—  23
  Johns.  Have done, sir: the company you see are tired, as well as myself.  24
 
 
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