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1776. have him to inject a little hint now and then, to preÆtat. 67.
vent his being overlooked."
Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch Militia, in supporting which his Lordship had made an able speech in the House of Commons, was now a pretty general topick of conversation.--JOHNSON. “As Scotland contributes so little land-tax towards the general support of the nation, it ought not to have a militia paid out of the general fund, unless it should be thought for the general interest, that Scotland should be protected from an invasion, which no man can think will happen; for what enemy would invade Scotland, where there is nothing to be got? No, Sir; now that the Scotch have not the
of English soldiers spent among them, as so many troops are sent abroad, they are trying to get money another way, by having a militia paid. If they are afraid, and seriously desire to have an armed force to defend them, they should pay for it. Your scheme is to retain a part of your land-tax, by making us pay and clothe your militia." BOSWELL. “ You should not talk of we and you, Sir: there is now an Union. JOHNSON. “ There must be a distinction of interest, while the proportions of land-tax are so unequal. If Yorkshire should say, “Instead of paying onr landtax, we will keep a greater number of militia, it would be unreasonable.” In this argument my friend was certainly in the wrong. The land-tax is as unequally proportioned between different parts England, as between England and Scotland; nay, it is considerably unequal in Scotland itself. But the land-tax is but a small part of the numerous branches of publick revenue, all of which Scotland pays pre
cisely as England does. A French invasion made in 1776. Scotland would soon penetrate into England.
Ætat. 67. He thus discoursed upon supposed obligation in settling estates:" Where a man gets the unlimited property of an estate, there is no obligation upon him in justice to leave it to one person rather than to another. There is a motive of preference from kindness, and this kindness is generally entertained for the nearest relation. If I owe a particular man a sum of money, I am obliged to let that man have the next money I get, and cannot in justice let another have it: but if I owe money to no man, I may dispose of what I get as I please. There is not a debitum justitiæ to a man's next heir; there is only a debitum caritatis. It is plain, then, that I have morally a choice, according to iny liking. If I have a brother in want, he has a claim from affection to my assistance; but if I have also a brother in want, whom I like better, he has a preferable claim. The right of an heir at law is only this, that he is to have the succession to an estate, in case no other person is appointed to it by the owner., His right is merely preferable to that of the King."
We got into a boat to cross over to Black-friars; and as we moved along the Thames, I talked to him of a little volume, which, altogether unknown to him, was advertised to be published in a few days, under the title of “ Johnsoniana, or Bon-Mots of Dr. Johnson.” JOHNSON. “ Şir, it is a mighty impudent thing." Boswell.“ Pray, Sir, could you have no redress if you were to prosecute a publisher for bringing out, under your name, what you never said, and ascribing to you dull stupid nonsense, or making you swear profanely, as many ignorant rela
1776. tếrs of your bón-mots do?" JOHNSON.". No, Šir; there Etat. 67.
will always be some truth mixed with the falsehood, and how can it be ascertained how much is true and how much is false? Besides, Sir; what damages woulda jurygive me for having been represented as swearing?" BOSWELL: “ I think, Sir, you should at least disavow such a publication, because the world and posterity might with much plausible foundation say, "Here is à volume which was publickly advertised and came out in Dr. Johnson's own time, and, by his silence, was admitted by him to be genuine.” Johnson. “I shall give myself no trouble about the matter.'
He was, perhaps, above suffering from such spurious publications; but I could not help thinking, that many men would be much injured in their reputation, by having absurd and vicious sayings imputed to them; and that redress ought in such cases to be given.
He said, “ The value of every story depends on its being true. A story is a picture either of an individual or of human nature in general: if it be false, it is a picture of nothing. For instance: suppose a man should tell that Johnson, before setting out for Italy, as he had to cross the Alps, sat down to make himself wings. This many people would believe; but it would be a picture of nothing. ******* (naming a worthy friend of onrs,) used to think a story, 'a story, till I 'shewed him that 'truth was essential to it.” I observed, that Foote entertained us with stories which were not true; but that, indeed, it was properly not as narratives that Foote's stories pleased us, but as collections of ludicrous images, Johnson. “ Foote is quite impartial, for he tells lies of every body.”
The importance of strict and scrupulous veracity 1776. cannot be too often inculcated. Johnson was known
Ætat. 67. to be so rigidly attentive to it, that even in hiş common conversation the slightest circumstance was mentioned with exact precision. The knowledge of his having such a principle and habit made his friends have a perfect reliance on the truth of every thing that he told, however it might have been doubted if told by many others. As an instance of this, I may inention an odd incident which he related as having happened to him one night in Fleet-street. gentlewoman (said he) begged I would give her my arm to assist her in crossing the street, which I accordingly did ; upon which she offered me a shilling, supposing me to be the watchman. I perceived that she was somewhat in liquor.” This, if told by most people, would haye been thought an invention; when told by Johnson, it was believed by his friends as much as if they had seen what passed,
We landed at the Temple-stairs, where we parted.
I found him in the evening in Mrs. Williams's room. We talked of religious orders. He said, “ It is as unreasonable for a man to go into a Car, thusian convent for fear of being immoral, as for a man to cut off his hands for fear he should steal. There is, indeed, great resolution in the immediate act of dismembering himself; but when that is once done, he has no longer any merit: for though it is out of his power to steal, yet he may all his life be a thief in his heart. So when a man has once become a Carthusian, he is obliged to continue so, whether he chooses it or not. Their silence, too, is absurd. We read in the Gospel of the apostles being sent to preach, but not to hold their tongues. All severity
1776. that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, Ætat. 67.
is idle. I said to the Lady Abbess of a convent,
Madam, you are here, not for the love of virtue, but the fear of vice.' She said, "She should remember this as long as she lived." I thought it hard to give her this view of her situation, when she could not help it; and, indeed, I wondered at the whole of what he now said; because, both in his “ Rambler” and "s Idler," he treats religious austerities with much solemnity of respect.
Finding him still persevering in his abstinence from wine, I ventured to speak to him of it.-JOHN son. “ Sir, I have no objection to a man's drinking wine, if he can do it in moderation. I found myself apt to go to excess in it, and therefore, after having been for some time without it, on account of illness, I thought it better not to return to it. Every man is to judge for himself, according to the effects which he experiences. One of the fathers tells us, he found fasting made him so peevish that he did not practise it."
Though he often enlarged upon the evil of intoxication, he was by no means harsh and unforgiving to those who indulged in occasional excess in wine. One of his friends, I well remember, came to sup at a tavern with him and some other gentlemen, and too plainly discovered that he had drunk too much at dinner. When one who loved mischief, thinking to produce a severe censure, asked Johnson, a few days afterwards, “ Well, Sir, what did your friend say to you, as an apology for being in such a situation ?" Johnson answered, “Sir, he said all that a man should say: he said he was sorry for it.”
I heard him once give a very judicious practical