"He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer."

— Boswell, James (1740-1795)

Place of Publication
Printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly
"He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer."
Metaphor in Context
We talked of Mr Burke. Dr Johnson said, he had great variety of knowledge, store of imagery, copiousness of language. ROBERTSON. 'He has wit too.' JOHNSON. 'No, sir; he never succeeds there. 'Tis low; 'tis conceit. I used to say, Burke never once made a good joke. What I most envy Burke for, is, his being constantly the same. He is never what we call humdrum; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to leave off.' BOSWELL. 'Yet he can listen.' JOHNSON. 'No; I cannot say he is good at that. So desirous is he to talk, that, if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end. Burke, sir, is such a man, that if you met him for the first time in the street where you were stopped by a drove of oxen, and you and he stepped aside to take shelter but for five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say, this is an extraordinary man. Now, you may be long enough with me, without finding any thing extraordinary.' He said, he believed Burke was intended for the law; but either had not money enough to follow it, or had not diligence enough. He said, he could not understand how a man could apply to one thing, and not to another. Robertson said, one man had more judgment, another more imagination. JOHNSON. 'No, sir; it is only, one man has more mind than another. He may direct it differently; he may, by accident, see the success of one kind of study, and take a desire to excel in it. I am persuaded that, had Sir Isaac Newton applied to poetry, he would have made a very fine epick poem. I could as easily apply to law as to tragick poetry.' BOSWELL. 'Yet, sir, you did apply to tragick poetry, not to law.' JOHNSON. 'Because, sir, I had not money to study law. Sir, the man who has vigour, may walk to the east, just as well as to the west, if he happens to turn his head that way.' BOSWELL. 'But, sir,'tis like walking up and down a hill; one man will naturally do the one better than the other. A hare will run up a hill best, from her fore-legs being short; a dog down.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, sir; that is from mechanical powers. If you make mind mechanical, you may argue in that manner. One mind is a vice, and holds fast; there's a good memory. Another is a file; and he is a disputant, a controversialist. Another is a razor; and he is sarcastical.' We talked of Whitefield. He said, he was at the same college with him, and knew him 'before he began to be better than other people' (smiling); that he believed he sincerely meant well, but had a mixture of politicks and ostentation: whereas Wesley thought of religion only. Robertson said, Whitefield had strong natural eloquence, which, if cultivated, would have done great things. JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, I take it, he was at the height of what his abilities could do, and was sensible of it. He had the ordinary advantages of education; but he chose to pursue that oratory which is for the mob.' BOSWELL. 'He had great effect on the passions.' JOHNSON. 'Why, sir, I don't think so. He could not represent a succession of pathetick images. He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer.' Dr JOHNSON now said, a certain eminent political friend of ours was wrong, in his maxim of sticking to a certain set of men on all occasions. 'I can see that a man may do right to stick to a party,' said he; 'that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove. (pp. 172-4)
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At least 5 entries in ESTC (1785, 1786, 1791).

See The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. By James Boswell, Esq. Containing Some Poetical Pieces by Dr. Johnson, relative to the Tour, and never before published; A Series of his Conversation, Literary Anecdotes, and Opinions of Men and Books: With an Authentick Account of The Distresses and Escape of the Grandson of King James II. in the Year 1746. (London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, 1785). <Link to ECCO>

Text from Johnson, Samuel and James Boswell. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, ed. Peter Levi. (New York: Penguin Books, 1984).
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.