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1773. more to lament them, that they will be imputed to Ætat. 61.
his absurdity or corruption. The qualifications of a
be urged, that though the parish might not choose better ministers, they would at least choose ministers whom they like better, and who would therefore officiate with greater efficacy. That ignorance and perverseness should always obtain what they like, was never considered as the end of government; of which it is the great and standing benefit, that the wise see for the simple, and the regular act for the capricious. But that this argument supposes the people capable of judging, and resolute to act according to their best judgements, though this be sufficiently absurd, it is not all its absurdity. It supposes not only wisdom, but unanimity in those, who upon no other occasions are unanimous or wise. If by some strange concurrence all the voices of a parish should unite in the choice of any single man, though I could not charge the patron with injustice for presenting a minister, I should censure him as unkind and injudicious. But, it is evident, that as in all other popular elections there will be contrariety of judgement and acrimony of passion, a parish upon every vacancy would break into factions, and the contest for the choice of a minister would set neighbours at variance, and bring discord into families, The minister would be taught all the arts of a candidate, would flatter some, and bribe others; and the
electors, as in all other cases, would call for holidays 1773. and ale, and break the heads of each other during the
Ætat. 64. jollity of the canvass. The time must, however, come at last, when one of the factions must prevail, and one of the ministers get possession of the church. On what terms does he enter upon his ministry but those of enmity with half his parish? By what prudence or what diligence can he hope to conciliate the affections of that party by whose defeat he has obtained his living? Every man who voted against him will enter the church with hanging head and downcast eyes, afraid to encounter that neighbour by whose vote and influence he has been overpowered. He will hate his neighbour for opposing him, and his minister for having prospered by the opposition ; and as he will never see him but with pain, he will never see him but with hatred. Of a
Of a minister presented by the patron, the parish has seldom any thing worse to say than that they do not know him. Of a minister chosen by a popular contest, all those who do not favour him, have nursed up in their bosoms principles of hatred and reasons of rejection. Anger is excited principally by pride. The pride of a common man is very little exasperated by the supposed usurpation of an acknowledged superiour. He bears only his little share of a general evil, and suffers in common with the whole parish: but when the contest is between equals, the defeat has many aggravations; and he that is defeated by his next neighbour, is seldom satisfied without some revenge: and it is hard to say what bitterness of malignity would prevail in a parish where these elections should happen to be frequent, and the enmity of opposition should be re-kindled before it had cooled."
1773. Though I present to my readers Dr. Johnson's Ætat. 64. masterly thoughts on the subject, I think it proper
to declare, that notwithstanding I am myself a laypatron, I do not entirely subscribe to his opinion.
On Friday, May 7, I breakfasted with him at Mr. Thrale's in the Borough. While we were alone, I endeavoured as well as I could to apologise for a lady who had been divorced from her husband by act of Parliament. I said, that he had used her very ill, had behaved brutally to her, and that she could not continue to live with him without having her delicacy contaminated; that all affection for him was thus destroyed; that the essence of conjugal union being gone, there remained only a cold form, a mere civil obligation ; that she was in the prime of life, with qualities to produce happiness ; that these ought rrot to be lost; and, that the gentleman on whose account she was divorced had gained her heart while thus unhappily situated. Seduced, perhaps, by the charms of the lady in question, I thus attempted to palliate what I was sensible could not be justified ; for when I had finished my harangue, my venerable friend gave me a proper check: “ My dear Sir, never accustom your mind to mingle virtue and vice. The woman's a whore, and there's an end on't.”
He described the father of one of his friends thus: “Sir, he was so exuberant a talker at publick meetings, that the gentlemen of his county were afraid of him. No business could be done for his declamation."
He did not give me full credit when I mentioned that I had carried on a short conversation by signs with some Esquimaux, who were then in London, particularly with one of them who was a priest. He
thought I could not make them understand me. No man was more incredulous as to particular facts,
Ætat. 64. which were at all extraordinary: and therefore no man was more scrupulously inquisitive, in order to discover the truth.
I dined with him this day at the house of mý friends, Messieurs Edward and Charles Dilly, booksellers in the Poultry: there were present, their elder brother Mr. Dilly of Bedfordshire, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Langton, Mr. Claxton, Reverend Dr. Mayo, a dissenting minister, the Reverend Mr. Toplady, and my friend the Reverend Mr. Temple.
Hawkesworth's compilation of the voyages to the South Sea being mentioned ;-JOHNSON. “ Sir, if you
talk of it as a subject of commerce, it will be gainful; if as a book that is to increase human knowledge, I believe there will not be much of that. Hawkesworth can tell only what the voyagers have told hiin; and they have found very little, only one new animal, I think.” Boswell. “But many insects, Sir.” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, as to insects, , Ray reckons of British insects twenty thousand species. They might have staid at home and discovered enough in that way."
Talking of birds, I mentioned Mr. Daines Barrington's ingenious Essay against the received notion of their migration. Johnson. “I think we have as good evidence for the migration of woodcocks as can be desired. We find they disappear at a certain time of the year, and appear again at a certain time of the year; and some of them, when weary in their flight, have been known to alight on the rigging of ships far out at sea.” One of the company observed, that there had been instances of some of
1773. them found in summer in Essex. JOHNSON. “ Sir, pred that strengthens our argument. Exceptio probat Etat. 64.
regulam. Some being found shews, that, if all res mained, many would be found.
would be found. A few sick or lame ones may be found.” GOLDSMITH. “ There is a partial migration of the swallows; the stronger ones migrate, the others do not.”
Boswell. “ I am well assured that the people of Otaheite who have the bread tree, the fruit of which serves them for bread, laughed heartily when they were informed of the tedious process necessary with us to have bread;—plowing, sowing, harrowing, reaping, threshing, grinding, baking.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, all ignorant savages will laugh when they are told of the advantages of civilized life. Were you to tell men who live without houses, how we pile brick upon brick, and rafter upon rafter, and that after a house is raised to a certain height, a man tumbles off a scaffold, and breaks his neck; he would laugh heartily at our folly in building; but it does not follow that men are better without houses, No, Sir, (holding up a slice of a good loaf,) this is better than the bread tree."
He repeated an argument, which is to be found in his “ Rambler," against the notion that the brute creation is endowed with the faculty of reason: “ birds build by instinct; they never improve; they build their first nest as well as any one they ever build.” GOLDSMITII. “ Yet we see if you take away a bird's nest with the eggs in it, she will make a slighter nest and lay again.” Johnson. “ Sir, that is because at first she has full time and makes her nest deliberately. In the case you mention she is pressed to lay, and must therefore make her nest