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1772. that he was married ; else we should have shown
his lady more civilities. She is a very fine woman. Ætat. 63.
But how can you show civilities to a non-entity? I did not think he had been married. Nay, I did not think about it one way or other; but he did not tell us of his lady till late."
He then spoke of St. Kilda, the most remote of the Hebrides. I told him, I thought of buying it. Johnson. “ Pray do, Sir. We will go and pass a winter amid the blasts there. We shall have fine fish, and we will take some dried tongues with us, and some books. We will have a strong built vessel, and some Orkney men to navigate her. We must build a tolerable house: but we may carry with us a wooden house ready made, and requiring nothing but to be put up. Consider, Sir, by buying St. Kilda, you may keep the people from falling into worse hands. We must give them a clergyman, and he shall be one of Beattie's choosing. He shall be educated at Marischal College. I'll be your Lord Chancellor, or what you please.” Boswell. “ Are you serious, Sir, in advising me to buy St. Kilda? for if you should advise me to go to Japan, I believe I should do it.” Johnson. “ Why yes, Sir, I am serious. BOSWELL. “Why then I'll see what can be done."
My best wishes ever attend you and your family, Believe me to be, with the utmost regard and esteem, dear Sir, "Your obliged and affectionate humble servant,
I have, from my respect for my friend Dr. Beattie, and regard to his extreme sensibility, inserted the foregoing letter, though I cannot but wonder at his considering as any imputation a phrase commonly used among the best friends.
I gave him an account of the two parties in the 1772. church of Scotland, those for supporting the rights
Ætat. 63. of patrons, independent of the people, and those against it. JOHNSON. “ It should be settled one way or other. I cannot wish well to a popular election of the clergy, when I consider that it occasions such animosities, such unworthy courting of the people, such slanders between the contending parties, and other disadvantages. It is enough to allow the people to remonstrate against the nomination of a minister for solid reasons." (I suppose he meant heresy or immorality.)
He was engaged to dine abroad, and asked me to return to him in the evening, at nine, which I accordingly did.
We drank tea with Mrs. Williams, who told us a story of second sight, which happened in Wales where she was born.--He listened to it very attentively, and said he should be glad to have some instances of that faculty well authenticated. His elevated wish for more and more evidence for spirit, in opposition to the groveling belief of materialism, led him to a love of such mysterious disquisitions. He again justly observed, that we could have no certainty of the truth of supernatural appearances, unless something was told us which we could not know by ordinary means, or something done which could not be done but by supernatural power; that Pharaoh in reason and justice required such evidence from Moses; nay, that our Saviour said, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.” He had said in the morning, that “Macaulay's History of St. Kilda” was very well written, except some foppery about liberty
1772. and slavery. I mentioned to him that Macaulay
he was advised to leave out of his book the Etat. 63. wonderful
the approach of a stranger all the inhabitants catch cold;' but that it had been so well authenticated, he determined to retain it. JOHNSON. “ Sir, to leave things out of a book, merely because people tell you they will not be believed, is meanness. Macaulay acted with more magnanimity."
We talked of the Roman Catholick religion, and how little difference there was in essential matters between ours and it. JOHNSON. " True, Sir ; all denominations of Christians have really little difference in point of doctrine, though they may differ widely in external forms. There is a prodigious difference between the external form of one of
your Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and a church in Italy; yet the doctrine taught is essentially the same.”
I mentioned the petition to Parliament for removing the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles. JOHNSON. “ It was soon thrown out. Sir, they talk of not making boys at the University subscribe to what they do not understand; but they ought to consider, that our Universities were founded to bring up members for the church of England, and we must not supply our enemies with arms from our arsenal. No, Sir, the meaning of subscribing is, not that they fully understand all the articles, but that they will adhere to the Church of England. Now take it in this
suppose that they should only subscribe their adherence to the Church of England, there
7 See ante p. 52 of this volume.
would be still the same difficulty; for still the young 1772. men would be subscribing to what they do not un
Ætat. 63. derstand. For if
For if you should ask them, what do you mean by the Church of England? Do you know in what it differs from the Presbyterian Church ? from the Romish Church? from the Greek Church? from the Coptick Church? they could not tell you. So, Sir, it comes to the same thing." BOSWELL. “ But, would it not be sufficient to subscribe the Bible?” JOHNSON. Why no, Sir; for all sects will suba scribe the Bible; nay, the Mahometans will subscribe the Bible; for the Mahometans acknowledge Jesus Christ, as well as Moses, but maintain that God sent Mahomet as a still greater prophet than either.
I mentioned the motion which had been made in the House of Commons, to abolish the fast of the 30th of January. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, I could have wished that it had been a temporary act, perhaps, to have expired with the century. I am against abolishing it; because that would be declaring it wrong to establish it; but I should have no objection to rnake an act, continuing it for another century, and then letting it expire.'
He disapproved of the Royal Marriage Bill; “Because (said he) I would not have the people think that the validity of marriage depends on the will of man, or that the right of a King depends on the will of man. I should not have been against making the marriage of any of the royal family without the approbation of King and Parliament, highly criminal.”
In the morning we had talked of old families, and the respect due to them. Johnson. “Sir, you have right to that kind of respect, and are arguing for
1772. yourself. I am for supporting the principle, and am
disinterested in doing it, as I have no such right.” Ætat, 63.
BOSWELL. “Why, Sir, it is one more incitement to a man to do well.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir, and it is a matter of opinion, very necessary to keep society together. What is it but opinion, by which we have a respect for authority, that prevents us, who are the rabble, from rising up and pulling down you who are gentlemen from your places, and saying "We will be gentlemen in our turn? Now, Sir, that respect for authority is much more easily granted to a man whose father has had it, than to an upstart, and so Society is more easily supported.” Boswell. “Perhaps, Sir, it might be done by the respect belonging to office, as among the Romans, where the dress, the toga, inspired reverence.”
Johnson. “ Why, we know very
little about the Romans. But, surely, it is much easier to respect a man who has always had respect, than to respect a man who we know was last year no better than ourselves, and will be no better
In republicks there is no respect for authority, but a fear of power.” Boswell. 66 At present, Sir, I think riches seem to gain most respect.” JOHNSON.” “ No, Sir, riches do not gain hearty respect; they only procure external attention. A very rich man, from low beginnings, may buy his election in a borough ; but, cæteris paribus, a man of family will be preferred. People will prefer a man for whose father their fathers have voted, though they should get no more money, or even less. That shows that the respect for family is not merely fanciful, but has an actual operation. If gentlemen of family would allow the rich upstarts to spend their money profusely, which they are ready enough to do, and