Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “we have eaten an excellent dinner, we are a company of intelligent men—although I allow that we should have difficulty in proving that we are so if it became known that we sat down with a Scotchman—and now pray do not mar the self-satisfaction which intelligent men experience after dining, by making assertions based on ignorance and maintained by sophistry.”

“Why, sir,” cried Goldsmith, “I doubt if the self-satisfaction of even the most intelligent of men—whom I take to be myself—is interfered with by any demonstration of an inferior intellect on the part of another.”

Edmund Burke laughed, understanding the meaning of the twinkle in Goldsmith's eye. Sir Joshua Reynolds, having reproduced—with some care—that twinkle, turned the bell of his ear-trumpet with a smile in the direction of Johnson; but Boswell and Garrick sat with solemn faces. The former showed that he was more impressed than ever with the conviction that Goldsmith was the most blatantly conceited of mankind, and the latter—as Burke perceived in a moment—was solemn in mimicry of Boswell's solemnity. When Johnson had given a roll or two on his chair and had pursed out his lips in the act of speaking, Boswell turned an eager face towards him, putting his left hand behind his ear so that he might not lose a word that might fall from his oracle. Upon Garrick's face was precisely the same expression, but it was his right hand that he put behind his ear.

Goldsmith and Burke laughed together at the marvellous imitation of the Scotchman by the actor, and at exactly the same instant the conscious and unconscious comedians on the other side of the table turned their heads in the direction first of Goldsmith, then of Burke. Both faces were identical as regards expression. It was the expression of a man who is greatly grieved. Then, with the exactitude of two automatic figures worked by the same machinery, they turned their heads again toward Johnson.

“Sir,” said Johnson, “your endeavour to evade the consequences of maintaining a silly argument by thrusting forward a question touching upon mankind in general, suggests an assumption on your part that my intelligence is of an inferior order to your own, and that, sir, I cannot permit to pass unrebuked.”

“Nay, sir,” cried Boswell, eagerly, “I cannot believe that Dr. Goldsmith's intention was so monstrous.”

“And the very fact of your believing that, sir, amounts almost to a positive proof that the contrary is the case,” roared Johnson.

“Pray, sir, do not condemn me on such evidence,” said Goldsmith.

“Men have been hanged on less,” remarked Burke. “But, to return to the original matter, I should like to know upon what facts——”

“Ah, sir, to introduce facts into any controversy on a point of art would indeed be a departure,” said Goldsmith solemnly. “I cannot countenance a proceeding which threatens to strangle the imagination.”

“And you require yours to be particularly healthy just now, Doctor. Did you not tell us that you were about to write a Natural History?” said Garrick.

“Well, I remarked that I had got paid for doing so—that's not just the same thing,” laughed Goldsmith.

“Ah, the money is in hand; the Natural History is left to the imagination,” said Reynolds. “That is the most satisfactory arrangement.”

“Yes, for the author,” said Burke. “Some time ago it was the book which was in hand, and the payment was left to the imagination.”

“These sallies are all very well in their way,” said Garrick, “but their brilliance tends to blind us to the real issue of the question that Dr. Goldsmith introduced, which I take it was, Why should not acting be included among the arts? As a matter of course, the question possesses no more than a casual interest to any of the gentlemen present, with the exception of Mr. Burke and myself. I am an actor and Mr. Burke is a statesman—another branch of the same profession—and therefore we are vitally concerned in the settlement of the question.”

“The matter never rose to the dignity of being a question, sir,” said Johnson. “It must be apparent to the humblest intelligence—nay, even to Boswell's—that acting is a trick, not a profession—a diversion, not an art. I am ashamed of Dr. Goldsmith for having contended to the contrary.”

“It must only have been in sport, sir,” said Boswell mildly.

“Sir, Dr. Goldsmith may have earned reprobation,” cried Johnson, “but he has been guilty of nothing so heinous as to deserve the punishment of having you as his advocate.”

“Oh, sir, surely Mr. Boswell is the best one in the world to pronounce an opinion as to what was said in sport, and what in earnest,” said Goldsmith. “His fine sense of humour——”

“Sir, have you seen the picture which he got painted of himself on his return from Corsica?” shouted Johnson.

“Gentlemen, these diversions may be well enough for you,” said Garrick, “but in my ears they sound as the jests of the crowd must in the ears of a wretch on his way to Tyburn. Think, sirs, of the position occupied by Mr. Burke and myself at the present moment. Are we to be branded as outcasts because we happen to be actors?”

“Undoubtedly you at least are, Davy,” cried Johnson. “And good enough for you too, you rascal!”

“And, for my part, I would rather be an outcast with David Garrick than become chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury,” said Goldsmith.

“Dr. Goldsmith, let me tell you that it is unbecoming in you, who have relations in the church, to make such an assertion,” said Johnson sternly. “What, sir, does friendship occupy a place before religion, in your estimation?”

“The Archbishop could easily get another chaplain, sir, but whither could the stage look for another Garrick?” said Goldsmith.

“Psha! Sir, the puppets which we saw last week in Panton street delighted the town more than ever Mr. Garrick did,” cried Johnson; and when he perceived that Garrick coloured at this sally of his, he lay back in his chair and roared with laughter.

Reynolds took snuff.

“Dr. Goldsmith said he could act as adroitly as the best of the puppets—I heard him myself,” said Boswell.

“That was only his vain boasting which you have so frequently noted with that acuteness of observation that makes you the envy of our circle,” said Burke. “You understand the Irish temperament perfectly, Mr. Boswell. But to resort to the original point raised by Goldsmith; surely, Dr. Johnson, you will allow that an actor of genius is at least on a level with a musician of genius.”

“Sir, I will allow that he is on a level with a fiddler, if that will satisfy you,” replied Johnson.

“Surely, sir, you must allow that Mr. Garrick's art is superior to that of Signor Piozzi, whom we heard play at Dr. Burney's,” said Burke.

“Yes, sir; David Garrick has the good luck to be an Englishman, and Piozzi the ill luck to be an Italian,” replied Johnson. “Sir, 't is no use affecting to maintain that you regard acting as on a level with the arts. I will not put an affront upon your intelligence by supposing that you actually believe what your words would imply.”

“You can take your choice, Mr. Burke,” said Goldsmith: “whether you will have the affront put upon your intelligence or your sincerity.”

“I am sorry that I am compelled to leave the company for a space, just as there seems to be some chance of the argument becoming really interesting to me personally,” said Garrick, rising; “but the fact is that I rashly made an engagement for this hour. I shall be gone for perhaps twenty minutes, and meantime you may be able to come to some agreement on a matter which, I repeat, is one of vital importance to Mr. Burke and myself; and so, sirs, farewell for the present.”

He gave one of those bows of his, to witness which was a liberal education in the days when grace was an art, and left the room.

“If Mr. Garrick's bow does not prove my point, no argument that I can bring forward will produce any impression upon you, sir,” said Goldsmith.

“The dog is well enough,” said Johnson; “but he has need to be kept in his place, and I believe that there is no one whose attempts to keep him in his place he will tolerate as he does mine.”

“And what do you suppose is Mr. Garrick's place, sir?” asked Goldsmith. “Do you believe that if we were all to stand on one another's shoulders, as certain acrobats do, with Garrick on the shoulder of the topmost man, we should succeed in keeping him in his proper place?”

“Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “your question is as ridiculous as anything you have said to-night, and to say so much, sir, is, let me tell you, to say a good deal.”

“What a pity it is that honest Goldsmith is so persistent in his attempts to shine,” whispered Boswell to Burke.

“'Tis a great pity, truly, that a lark should try to make its voice heard in the neighbourhood of a Niagara,” said Burke.

“Pray, sir, what is a Niagara?” asked Boswell.

“A Niagara?” said Burke. “Better ask Dr. Goldsmith; he alluded to it in his latest poem. Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Boswell wishes to know what a Niagara is.”

“Sir,” said Goldsmith, who had caught every word of the conversation in undertone. “Sir, Niagara is the Dr. Johnson of the New World.”

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