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proof-sheet of his “Life of Waller” on Good Friday.
Mr. Allen, the printer, brought a book on agriculture, which was printed, and was soon to be published. It was a very strange performance, the authour having mixed in it his own thoughts upon various topicks, along with his remarks on plowing, sowing, and other farining operations. He seemed to be an absurd profane fellow, and had introduced in his books many sneers at religion, with equal ignorance and conceit. Dr. Johnson permitted me to read some passages aloud. One was that he resolved to work on Sunday, and did work, but he owned he felt some weak compunction; and he had this very curious reflection :-"I was born in the wilds of Christianity, and the briars and thorns still hang about me." Dr. Johnson could not help laughing at this ridiculous image, yet was very angry at the fellow's impiety. “However, (said he,) the Reviewers will make him hang himself.” He, however, observed, “ that formerly there might have been a dispensation obtained for working on a Sunday in time of harvest.” Indeed in ritual observances, were all the ministers of religion, what they should be, and what many of them are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the Church.
On Saturday, April 14, I drauk tea with him. He praised the late Mr. Duncombe, of Canterbury, as a pleasing man. “ He used to come to me; I did not seek much after him. Indeed I never sought much after any body.” Boswell. “Lord Orrery, I suppose.” Johnson. “No, Sir; I pever went to him but when he sent for me." BosWELL. “ Richardson ?" Johnson. “ Yes, Sir. But I sought after George Psalmanazar the most. I used to go and sit with him at an alehouse in the city.”
I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his seeking after a inan of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines Barrington had published his excellent “Observations on the Statutes,” Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and having told him his name, courteously said, “I have read your book, Sir, with great pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.” Thus began an acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson lived.
Talking of a recent seditious delinquent, be said, “They should set him in the pillory, that he
may be punished in a way that would disgrace him.” I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I mentioned an instance of a gentleman, who I thought was not dishonoured by it. Johnson. “Aye, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not willing to ask a man to their tables, who has stood in the pillory.”
The gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's came in. Johnson attacked the Americans with intemperate vehemence of abuse. I said something in their favour; and added, that I was always sorry when he talked on that subject. This, it seems, exasperated bim; though he said nothing at the time. The
cloud was charged with sulphurious vapour, which was afterwards to burst in thunder. We talked of a gentleinan who was running out his fortune in London; and I said, “We must get him out of it. All his friends must quarrel with bim, and that will soon drive him away." Johnson. “Nay, Sir, we'll send you to him. If your company does not drive a man out of his house, nothing will.” This was a horrible shock, for which there was no visible
I afterwards asked him, why he had said so harsh a thing. Johnson. “ Because, Sir, you made me angry about the Americans." BOSWELL. “ But why did you not take your revenge directly?” Johnson. (smiling) “Because, Sir, I had nothing ready. A man cannot strike till he has his weapons." This was a candid and pleasant confession.
He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteely fitted up; and said, Mrs. Tbrale sneered, when I talked of my having asked you and your lady to live at my house. I was obliged to tell her, that you would be in as respectable a situation in my house as in hers. Sir, the insolence of wealth will creep out.” BOSWELL. 6. She has a little both of the insolence of wealth, and the conceit of parts.” Johnson. “ The insolence of wealth is a wretched thing ; but the conceit of parts has some foundation. To be sure, it should not be. But who is without it?" BOSWELL. “Yourself, Sir.” Johnson. Why, I play no tricks: I lay no traps.” Boswell. No, Sir. You are six feet high, and you only do not stoop.”
We talked of the nunbers of people that
sometimes have composed the household of great families. I mentioned that there were a hundred in the family of the present Earl of Eglintoune's father. Dr. Johnson seeming to doubt it, I began to enumerate.
166 Let us see: my Lord and my Lady two.” Johnson. “Nay, Sir, if you are to count by twos, you may be long enough.” BOSWELL. “Well, but now I add two sons and seven daughters, and a servant for each, that will make twenty; so we have the fifth part already.” Johnson. “ Very true. You get at twenty pretty readily; but you will not so easily get further on. We grow to five feet pretty readily; but it is not so easy to grow to seven.”
On Sunday, April 19, being Easter-day, after the solemnities of the festival in St. Paul's Church, I visited him, but could not stay to dinner. I expressed a wish to have the arguments for Christianity always in readiness, that my religious faith migh tbe as firm and clear as any proposition whatever, so that I need not be under the least uneasiness, when it should be attacked. JOHNSON. “Sir, you cannot an. swer all objections. You have demonstration for a First Cause: you see he must be good as well as powerful, because there is nothing to make him otherwise, and goodness of itself is preferable. Yet you have against this, what is very certain, the unhappiness of human life. This, however, gives us reason to hope for a future state of compensation, that there may be a perfect systém. But of that we were vot sure, till we had a positive revelation.” I told him, that his “Rasselas" had often made me
unhappy; for it represented the misery of human life so well, and so convincingly to a thinking mind, that if at any time the impression wore off, and I felt myself easy, I began to suspect some delusion.
On Monday, April 20, I found him at home in the morning. We talked of a gentleman who we apprehended was gradually involving his circumstances by bad management. Johnson. “Wasting a fortune is evaporation by a thousand imperceptible means.
If it were a stream they'd stop it. You must speak to him. It is really miserable. Were he a gamester, it could be said he had hopes of winning. Were he a bankrupt in trade, he might have grown rich; but he has neither spirit to spend, nor resolution to spare. He does not spend fast enough to have pleasure from it. He has the crime of prodigality, and the wretchedness of parsimony. If a man is killed in a duel, he is killed as many a one has been killed; but it is a sad thing for a man to lie down and die; to bleed to death because he has not fortitude enough to sear the wound, or even to stitch it up. I cannot but pause a moment to admire the fecundity of fancy, and choice of language, which, in this instance, and, indeed, on almost all occasions, he displayed. It was well observed by Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore, “ The conversation of Johnson is strong and clear, and may be campared to an antique statue, where every vein and muscle is distinct and bold. Ordinary conversation resembles an inferiour cast.”
On Saturday, April 25, I dined with him at