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subject of long meditation. I am not satisfied if a year passes without my having read it through; and at every perusal, my admiration of the mind which produced it is so highly raised, that I can scarcely believe that I had the honour of enjoying the intimacy of such a man.
I restrain myself from quoting passages from this excellent work, or even referring to them; because I should not know what to select, or, rather, what to omit. I shall, however, transcribe one, as it shows how well he could state the arguments of those who believe in the appearance of departed spirits; a doctrine which it is a mistake to suppose that he himself ever positively held :
"If all your fear be of apparitions (said the Prince), I will promise you safety: there is no danger from the dead; he that is once buried will be seen no more.
"That the dead are seen no more (said Imlac), I will not undertake to maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth; those that never heard of one another, would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears."
Notwithstanding my high admiration of Rasselas, I will not maintain that the "morbid melancholy" in Johnson's constitution may not, perhaps, have made life appear to him more insipid and unhappy
than it generally is; for I am sure that he had less enjoyment from it than I have. Yet, whatever additional shade his own particular sensations may have thrown on his representation of life, attentive observation and close inquiry have convinced me, that there is too much reality in the gloomy picture. The truth, however, is, that we judge of the happiness and misery of life differently at different times, according to the state of our changeable frame. I always remember a remark make to me by a Turkish lady, educated in France:-" Ma foi, Monsieur, notre bonheur dépend de la façon que notre sang circule.” This have I learnt from a pretty hard course of experience; and would, from sincere benevolence, impress upon all who honour this book with a perusal, that until a steady conviction is obtained, that the present life is an imperfect state, and only a passage to a better, if we comply with the divine cheme of progressive improvement; and also that it is a part of the mysterious plan of Providence, that intellectual beings must "be made perfect through suffering;" there will be a continual recurrence of disappointment and uneasiness. But if we walk with hope in "the mid-day sun" of revelation, our temper and disposition will be such, that the comforts and enjoyments in our way will be relished, while we patiently support the inconveniencies and pains. After much speculation and various reasonings, I acknowledge myself convinced of the truth of Voltaire's conclusion, “ Après tout c'est un monde passable." But we must not think too deeply:
where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise,"
is, in many respects, more than poetically just. Let us cultivate, under the command of good principles, "la théorie des sensations agréables ;" and, as Mr. Burke once admirably counselled a grave and anxious gentleman, "live pleasant."
The effect of Rasselas, and of Johnson's other moral tales, is thus beautifully illustrated by Mr. Courtenay:
"Impressive truth, in splendid fiction dress'd,
Checks the vain wish, and calms the troubled breast;
It will be recollected, that during all this year he carried on his IDLER (1), and, no doubt, was pro
(1) This paper was in such high estimation before it was collected into volumes, that it was seized on with avidity by various publishers of newspapers and magazines, to enrich their publications. Johnson, to put a stop to this unfair proceeding, wrote for the Universal Chronicle the following advertisement; in which there is, perhaps, more pomp of words than the occasion demanded:
"London, Jan. 5. 1759. ADVERTISEMENT. The proprietors of the paper entitled 'The Idler,' having found that those essays are inserted in the newspapers and magazines with so little regard to justice or decency, that the Universal Chronicle, in which they first appear, is not always mentioned, think it necessary to declare to the publishers of those collections, that however patiently they have hitherto endured these injuries, made yet more injurious by contempt, they have now determined to endure them no longer. They have already seen essays, for which a very large price is paid, transferred, with the most shameless rapacity, into the weekly or monthly compilations, and their right, at least for the present, alienated from them, before they could themselves be said to enjoy it. But they would not willingly be thought to want tenderness, even for men by whom no tenderness hath been shown. The past is without remedy, and shall be without resentment. But those who have been thus busy with their sickles in the fields of their neighbours, are henceforward to take notice that the time of impunity is at an end. Whoever shall, without our leave, lay the hand of rapine upon our papers, is to expect that we
ceeding, though slowly, in his edition of Shakspeare. He, however, from that liberality which never failed when called upon to assist other labourers in literature, found time to translate for Mrs. Lenox's English version of Brumoy, "A Dissertation on the Greek Comedy," and "The General Conclusion of the Book." t
An inquiry into the state of foreign countries was an object that seems at all times to have interested Johnson. Hence Mr. Newbery found no great difficulty in persuading him to write the Introduction* to a collection of voyages and travels published by him under the title of "The World Displayed:" the first volume of which appeared this year, and the remaining volumes in subsequent years.
I would ascribe to this year the following letter to a son of one of his early friends at Lichfield, Mr. Joseph Simpson, Barrister, and author of a tract entitled "Reflections on the Study of the Law." (1)
shall vindicate our due, by the means which justice prescribes, and which are warranted by the immemorial prescriptions of honourable trade. We shall lay hold, in our turn, on their copies, degrade them from the pomp of wide margin and diffuse typography, contract them into a narrow space, and sell them at an humble price; yet not with a view of growing rich by confiscations, for we think not much better of money got by punishment than by crimes. We shall therefore, when our losses are repaid, give what profit shall remain to the Magdalens; for we know not who can be more properly taxed for the support of penitent prostitutes, than prostitutes in whom there yet appears neither penitence nor shame."
(1) [Published anonymously in 1765, under the title of "Reflections on the Natural and Acquired Endowments requisite for the Study of the Law," and afterwards republished, with notes and a commentary, by Matthew Dawes, Esq.]
LETTER 71. TO JOSEPH SIMPSON, ESQ.
"DEAR SIR, -Your father's inexorability not only grieves but amazes me he is your father; he was always accounted a wise man; nor do I remember any thing to the disadvantage of his good-nature; but in his refusal to assist you there is neither good-nature, fatherhood, nor wisdom. It is the practice of goodnature to overlook faults which have already, by the consequences, punished the delinquent. It is natural for a father to think more favourably than others of his children; and it is always wise to give assistance, while a little help will prevent the necessity of greater.
"If you married imprudently, you miscarried at your own hazard, at an age when you had a right of choice. It would be hard if the man might not choose his own wife, who has a right to plead before the judges of his country.
"If your imprudence has ended in difficulties and inconveniencies, you are yourself to support them; and, with the help of a little better health, you would support them and conquer them. Surely, that want which accident and sickness produces, is to be supported in every region of humanity, though there were neither friends nor fathers in the world. You have certainly from your father the highest claim of charity, though none of right; and therefore I would counsel you to omit no decent nor manly degree of importunity. Your debts in the whole are not large, and of the whole but a small part is troublesome. Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound: great debts are like cannon; of loud noise, but little danger. You must, therefore, be enabled to discharge petty debts, that you may have leisure, with security, to struggle with the rest. Neither the great nor little debts disgrace you. I am sure you have my esteem for the courage with which