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1772. I mentioned witches, and asked him what they Ætat. 63 properly meant.
Johnson. “Why, Sir, they, pro. perly 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 enquirer after truth, however strange and inexplicable, to shew that he understood what might be urged for it."
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.'
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 were affronted?" I answered, I should think it necessary to fight. “Why then, (replied Goldsmith,) that solves the question."
9 See this curious question treated by him with most acute ahility, “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” 3d edit. p. 33.
*[The passage to which Johnson alluded, is to be found (as į conjecture) in the PhÆN188£. I. 1120.
Και πρώτα μεν προσήγς κ. τ. λ.
JOHNSON. “ No, Sir, it does not solve the question. 1772. It does not follow, that what a man would do is there- Ætat. 63. fore 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-he lies, his neighbour tellshim-helies; if onegives his neighbour a blow, his neighbour gives hiin a blow: but in a state of highly polished society, an affront is held to be a serious injury. It must, therefore, be resented, or rather a duel must be fought upon it; as men have agreed to banish from their society one who puts up with an affront without fighting a duel. Now, Sir, it is never unlawful to fight in self-defence. He, then, who fights a duel, does not fight from passion against his antagonist, but out of self-defence; to avert the stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of society. I could wish there was not that superfluity of refinement ; but while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may lawfully fight a duel.”
Let it be remembered, that this justification is applicable only to the person who receives an affront, All mankind must condemn the aggressor.
The General told us, that when he was a very young man, I think only fifteen, serving under
1772. Prince Eugene of Savoy, he was sitting in a company
at table with a Prince of Wirtemberg. The Prince Ætat. 63.
took up a glass of wine, and, by a fillip, made some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. Here was a nice dilemma. To have challenged him instantly, might have fixed a quarrelsome character upon the young soldier: to have taken no notice of it, might have been considered as cowardice. Oglethorpe, therefore, keeping his eye upon the Prince, and smiling all the time, as if he took what his Highness had done in jest, said “ Mon Prince,” (I forget the French words he used, the purport however was,) “ That's a good joke; but we do it much better in England ;” and threw a whole glass of wine in the Prince's face. An old General who sat by, said, “ Il a bien fait, mon Prince, vous l'avez commencé:" and thus all ended in good humour."
Dr. Johnson said, “ Pray, General, give us an account of the siege of Belgrade." Upon which the General, pouring a little wine upon the table, described every thing with a wet finger : “ Here we were, here were the Tutks,” &c. &c. Johnson listened with the closest attention.
A question was started, how far people who disagree in a capital point can live in friendship together. Johnson said they might. Goldsmith said they could not, as they had not the idem velle atque idem nolle—the same likings and the same aversions. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, you must shun the subject as to which you disagree. For instance, I can live very well with Burke: I love his knowledge, his genius, his diffusion, and affluence of conversation; but I would not talk to him of the Rockingham party." GOLDSMITH. “ But, Sir, when people live together who have something as to which they disagree, and 1772. which they want to shun, they will be in the situation
Ætat. 63, mentioned in the story of Bluebeard : You may look into all the charnbers but one. But we should have the greatest inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject.” JOHNSON, (with a loud voice) “Sir, I am not saying that you could live in friendship with a man from whom you differ as to some point: I am only saying that I could do it. You put me in mind of Sappho in Ovid.”
Goldsmith told us, that he was now busy in writing a Natural History; and, that he might have full leisure for it, he had taken lodgings, at a farmer's house, near to the six mile-stone, on the Edgewareroad, and had carried down his books in two returned post-chaises. He said, he believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that in which the Spectator appeared to his landlady and her children: he was The Gentleman. Mr. Mickle, the translator of “The Lusiad,” and I, went to visit him at this place a few days afterwards. He was not at home; but having a curiosity to see his apartment, we went in, and found curious scraps of descriptions of animals, scrawled
the wall with a black lead pencil.
[Mr. Boswell's note here being rather short, as taken at the time, (with a view perhaps to future revision,) Johnson's remark is obscure, and requires to be a little opened. What he said, probably was, “ You seem to think that two friends, to live well together, must be in a perfect harmony with each other; that each should be to the other, what Sappho boasts she was to her lover, and uniformly agree in every particular: but this is by no means necessary,” &c. The words of Sappho alluded to, are;-"omnique à parte placebam." Ovid. Epist. Sapp. ad Phaonem. I. 45.
1772. The subject of ghosts being introduced, Johnson Etat. 63. repeated what he had told me of a friend of his, an
honest man, and a man of sense, having asserted to him, that he had seen an apparition. Goldsmith told us, he was assured by his brother, the Reverend Mr. Goldsmith, that he also had seen one. General Oglethorpe told us, that Prendergast, an officer in the Duke of Marlborough's army, had mentioned to many of his friends, that he should die on a particular day: that upon that day a battle took place with the French; that after it was over, and Prendergast was still alive, his brother officers, while they were yet in the field, jestingly asked him, where was his prophecy now. Prendergast gravely answered, “ I shall die, notwithstanding what you see.”
Soon afterwards, there came a shot from a French battery, to which the orders for a cessation of arms had not yet reached, and he was killed upon the spot. Colonel Cecil, who took possesion of his effects, found in his pocket-book the following solemn entry : [Here the date.] “ Dreamtor
3 Sir John Friend meets me;" (here the very day on which he was killed was mentioned.) Prendergast had been connected with Sir John Friend, who was executed for high treason. General Oglethorpe said, he was with Colonel Cecil, when Pope came and enquired into the truth of this story, which made a
Here was a blank, which may be filled up thus:-" was told by an apparition ;"- the writer being probably uncertain whether he was asleep or awake, when his mind was impressed with the solemn presentiment with which the fact afterwards happened so wonderfully to correspond.