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I talked of the little attachment which subsisted between near relations in London. “ Sir,” said Johnson, “in a country so commercial as ours, where every man can do for himself, there is not so much occasion for that attachment. No man is thought the worse of here, whose brother was hanged. In uncommercial countries, many of the branches of a family must depend on the stock; so, in order to make the head of the family take care of them, they are represented as connected with his reputation, that, self-love being interested, he may exert himself to promote their interest. You have, first, large circles, or clans; as commerce increases, the connection is confined to families; by degrees, that too goes off, as having become unnecessary, and there being few opportunities of intercourse.
One brother is a merchant in the city, and another is an officer in the guards : how little intercourse can these two have!”
I argued warmly for the old feudal system. Sir Alexander opposed it, and talked of the pleasure of seeing all men free and independent. Johnson.
agree with Mr. Boswell, that there must be high satisfaction in being a feudal lord ; but we are to consider, that we ought not to wish to have a number of men unhappy for the satisfaction of one." I maintained that numbers, namely, the vassals or followers, were not unhappy; for that there was
This, if ever it was a subject of real doubt, is now better understood; and young men of the highest rank think it no degradation to enter into the junior ranks of the military, naval, and diplomatic and official professions. — C.
reciprocal satisfaction between the lord and them, he being kind in his authority over them, they being respectful and faithful to him.
On Thursday, April 9., I called on him to beg he would
go and dine with me at the Mitre tavern. He had resolved not to dine at all this day, I know for what reason; and I was so unwilling to be deprived of his company, that I was content to submit to suffer a want, which was at first somewhat painful; but he soon made me forget it: and a man is always pleased with himself, when he finds his intellectual inclinations predominate.
He observed, that to reason philosophically on the nature of prayer, was very unprofitable.
Talking of ghosts, he said, he knew one friend, who was an honest man and a sensible man, who told him he had seen a ghost; old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer at St. John's Gate. He said, Mr. Cave did not like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horror whenever it was mentioned. BOSWELL. “Pray, Sir, what did he say was the appearance ?” Johnson. Why, Sir, something of a shadowy being."
I mentioned witches, and asked him what they properly meant. Johnson. “Why, Sir, they properly mean those who make use of the aid of evil spirits." BoswelL. “ There is no doubt, Sir, a general report and belief of their having existed.” Johnson. “You have not only the general report and belief, but you have many voluntary solemn confessions." He did not affirm any thing positively upon a subject which it is the fashion of the times to laugh at as 'a matter of absurd credulity. He only seemed willing, as a candid inquirer after truth, however strange and inexplicable, to show that he understood what might be urged for it. (1)
Dinner at General Oglethorpe's. Armorial Bearings.
Duelling. - Prince Eugene. -Siege of Belgrade. - Friendships. Goldsmith's Natural History. Story of Prendergast. Expulsion of Methodists from Oxford. — “ In Vino Veritas." — Education of the People. -Sense of Touch in the Blind. Theory of Sounds. — Taste in the Arts. - Francis Osborne's Works.
Country Gentlemen. Long Stories. Beattie and Robertson. Advice to Authors. - - Climate. Walpole and Pitt. Vicious Intromission.
- Beattie's Essay. Visit to Lichfield and Ashbourne.
On Friday, April 10., I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, where we found Dr. Goldsmith.
Armorial bearings having been mentioned, Johnson said they were as ancient as the siege of Thebes, which he proved by a passage in one of the tragedies of Euripides. (1)
(1) The passage to which Johnson alluded is to be found (as I conjecture) in the “ Phænissæ,” 1. 1120.
Και πρώτα μεν προσήγε, κ. τ. λ.
ENIZHM' éxão OIKEION év peoõ rwxll. – J. BOSWELL, Jun. The meaning is that “ Parthenopæus had, in the centre of his shield, the domestic sign - Atalanta killing the Ætolian boar :" but this, admitting that the story of Atalanta was the “armorial bearing” of Parthenopæus, would only prove them to be as
I started the question, whether duelling was consistent with moral duty. The brave old general fired at this, and said, with a lofty air, “Undoubtedly a man has a right to defend his honour.” GOLDSMITH (turning to me). “I ask you first, Sir, what would you do if
you were affronted ?” swered, I should think it necessary to fight. "Why then," replied Goldsmith, “ that solves the question.” JOHNSON. “No, Sir, it does not solve the question. It does not follow, that what a man would do is therefore right." I said, I wished to have it settled, whether duelling was contrary to the laws of Christianity. Johnson immediately entered on the subject, and treated it in a masterly manner; and, so far as I have been able to recollect, his thoughts were these :- -“ Sir, as men become in a high degree refined, various causes of offence arise; which are considered to be of such importance, that life must be staked to atone for them, though in reality they are not so. A body that has received a very fine polish may be easily hurt. Before men arrive at this artificial refinement, if one tells his neighbour
ancient as Euripides, who flourished (442 A. C.) near 800 years after the siege of Thebes (1225 A. C.). Homer, whom the chronologists place 500 years before Euripides, describes a sculptured shield; and there can be little doubt that very soon after ingenuity had made a shield, taste would begin to decorate it. The words “ domestic sign" are certainly very curious, yet probably mean no more than that he bore on his shield the representation of a family story. The better opinion seems to be, that it was not till the visor concealed the face of the warrior, that the ornaments of the shields and crests became distinctive of individuals and families in that peculiar manner which we understand by the terms “armorial bearings.”—C.