Finally we get to the happy year 1763, when Boswell met his hero. It happened in a bookshop of a Mr Davies, who was also an actor and whose bookshop Johnson sometimes frequented. One afternoon, when Boswell is drinking tea with the Davieses, Johnson comes in. The introduction is made and Boswell observes Johnson looks very much like in the portrait by Joshua Reynolds (I suppose he means the one below, as he refers to Johnson reposing there, not to the more popular one of him reading.) Boswell asked previously his host not to reveal that he’s Scottish, knowing Johnson’s dislike of Scots, Mr Davies teasingly reveals it, and Boswell adds, hoping to turn it into a joke “I come from Scotland, but I can’t help it”, to which Johnson retorts, with his usual quickness, that a great many of his countrymen can’t help it, either. The conversation turns to Garrick refusing to give Johnson tickets to a play, because he knows he can sell them very profitably. Boswell tries to insert himself in the conversation, saying that he’s sure Garrick wouldn’t refuse Johnson such a trifle. Johnson doesn’t take it very well and tells Boswell he’s known Garrick longer than Boswell has. Boswell is somewhat crest-fallen, but then the conversation goes quite well, even when on occasions he is left alone with Johnson.
A few days later he asks Davies whether it would be OK for him to visit Johnson at his apartment, and Davies says sure. On the 24th of May (Boswell remembers the date like others remember the date of their first kiss) he visits Johnson and is somewhat taken aback by the slovenliness of his dress (he has no slippers but wears unbuckled shoes at home), but when Johnson starts talking, he forgets his misgivings. In a flashback he recollects a conversation with a fellow Scotsman Dr Blair, who visited Johnson with another clergyman Dr Fordyce. Songs of Ossian were then a hot topic, Johnson being one of the very few people who didn’t believe in their authenticity and didn’t think highly of them, so when Dr Fordyce asks him whether he thinks any modern man could write them, he answers disparagingly “many men, women and children”. He doesn’t know that Dr Blair has just published a paper comparing Ossian with Homer and Vergil, and when he learns about it, he is displeased at giving offence unintentionally, but also thinks the men were asking for it, leading him on in this way.
Back in the present, there are also other guests with Johnson, and when they leave, Boswell also rises to go, but Johnson presses him to stay. The conversation, of which Boswell kept notes, thus starting his habit of noting down everything Johnson said, turns to madness. Johnson uses the example of his friend the poet Christopher Smart, to claim that symptoms of madness are often just small deviations from the regular custom; for instance Smart, seized by religious mania, took to praying in the streets, but as Johnson says, it’s greater madness not to pray at all, and yet a great deal of such people are not put in the asylum. Here Boswell cuts to a later conversation between Johnson and Dr Burney (Frances Burney’s father). Burney asks Johnson how Smart is doing, Johnson says sadly there is not much hope for recovery, but he doesn’t think Smart should be shut up. He never posed any harm: he wanted people to pray with him and he didn’t like clean linen “and I hold no great passion for it”.