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1776. so much of the knowledge peculiar to different pro
fessions, he told me, “I learnt what I know of law Ætat. 67
chiefly from Mr. Ballow,' a very able man. I learnt some too from Chambers ; but was not so teachable then. One is not willing to be taught by a young man.” When I expressed a wish to know more about Mr. Ballow, Johnson said, “ Sir, I have seen him but once these twenty years. The tide of life has driven us different ways.” I was sorry at the time to hear this ; but whoever quits the creeks of private connections, and fairly gets into the great ocean of London, will, by imperceptible degrees, unavoidably experience such cessations of acquaintance.
“My knowledge of physick, (he added,) I learnt from Dr. James, whom I helped in writing the proposals for his Dictionary, and also a little in the Dictionary itself. I also learnt from Dr. Lawrence, but was then grown more stubborn."
A curious incident happened to-day, while Mr. Thrale and I sat with him. Francis announced that a large packet was brought to him from the postoffice, said to have come from Lisbon, and it was charged seven, pounds ten shillings. He would not
? There is an account of him in Sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 244.
[Mr. Thomas Ballow was authour of an excellent TREATISE OF EQUITY, printed anonymously in 1742, and lately republished with very valuable additions, by John Fonblanque, Esq.
Mr. Ballow died suddenly in London, July 26, 1782, aged seventy-five, and is mentioned in the Gentleman's Magazine for that
a great Greek scholar, and famous for his knowledge of the old philosophy." MALONE.]
2 I have in vain endeavoured to find out what parts Johnson wrote for Dr. James. Perhaps medical men may.
receive it, supposing it to be some trick, nor did he '1776. even look at it. But upon enquiry afterwards he
Ætat. 67. found that it was a real packet for him, from that very friend in the East-Indies of whom he had been speaking ; and the ship which carried it having come to Portugal, this packet with others had been put into the post-office at Lisbon.
I mentioned a new gaming club, of which Mr. Beauclerk had given me an account, where the members played to a desperate extent. JOHNSON.
Depend upon it, Sir, this is mere talk. Who is ruined by gaming? You will not find six instances in an age. There is a strange rout made about deep play; whereas you have many more people ruined by adventurous trade, and yet we do not hear such an outcry against it.” THRALE. “ There may be few people absolutely ruined by deep play ; but very many are much hurt in their circumstances by it. JOHNSON. “ Yes, Sir, and so are very many by other kinds of expence.” I had heard hiin talk once before in the same manner ; and at Oxford he said, " he wished he had learned to play at cards." The truth, however, is, that he loved to display his ingenuity in argument; and therefore would sometimes in conversation maintain opinions which he was sensible were wrong, but in supporting which, his reasoning and wit would be most conspicuous. He would begin thus: “ Why, Sir, as to the good or evil of card playing—” “ Now, (said Garrick,) he is thinking which side he shall take.” He appeared to have a pleasure in contradiction, especially when any opinion whatever was delivered with an air of confi. dence; so that there was hardly any topick, if not one of the great truths of Religion and Morality,
1776. that he might not have been incited to argue, either Ætat. 67.
for or against. Lord Elibank' had the highest admiration of his powers. He once observed to me, “ Whatever opinion Johnson maintains, I will not say that he convinces me; but he never fails to shew me, that he had good reasons for it." I have heard Johnson
pay his Lordship this high compliment : “ I never was in Lord Elibank's company without learning something."
We sat together till it was too late for the afternoon service. Thrale said, he had come with intention to go to church with us. We went at seven to evening prayers at St. Clement's church, after having drank coffee ; an indulgence, which I understood Johnson yielded to on this occasion, in compliment to Thrale.
On Sunday, April 7, Easter-day, after having been at St. Paul's cathedral, I came to Dr. Johnson, according to my usual custom. It seemed to me, that there was always something peculiarly mild and placid in his manner upon this holy festival, the commemoration of the most joyful event in the history of our world, the resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOUR, who, having triumphed over death and the grave, proclaimed immortality to mankind.
I repeated to him an argument of a lady of my acquaintance, who maintained, that her husband's having been guilty of numberless infidelities, released her from conjugal obligations, because they were reciprocal. JOHNSON. " This is miserable stuff, Sir. To the contract of marriage, besides the man and wife, there is a third partySociety; and
3 Patrick, Lord Elibank, who died in 1778.
if it be considered as a vow-God: and, therefore, 1776. it cannot be dissolved by their consent alone. Laws Ætat. 67. are not made for particular cases, but for men in general. A woman may be unhappy with her husband ; but she cannot be freed from him without the approbation of the civil and ecclesiastical power. A man may be unhappy, because he is not so rich as another; but he is not to seize upon another's property with his own hand.” BOSWELL. “ But, Sir, this lady does not want that the contract should be dissolved; she only argues that she may indulge herself in gallantries with equal freedom as her husband does, provided she takes care not to introduce a spurious issue into his family. You know, Sir, what Macrobius has told of Julia." 4
* This lady of yours, Sir, I think, is very fit for a brothel.”
Mr. Macbean, authour of the “ Dictionary of Ancient Geography,” came in. He mentioned that he had been forty years absent from Scotland, “ Ah, Boswell! (said Johnson, smiling,) what would you give to be forty years from Scotland ? ” I said, “I should not like to be so long absent from the seat of my ancestors.” This gentleman, Mrs. Williams, and Mr. Levett, dined with us.
Dr. Johnson made a remark, which both Mr. Macbean and I thought new. It was this: that “ the law against usury is for the protection of creditors as well as debtors; for if there were no such check, people would be apt, from the temptation of great interest, to lend to desperate persons, by whom they would lose their money. Accordingly there are instances of ladies being ruined, by having injudi
* “ Nunquam enim nisi navi plenâ tollo vectorem.” Lib, ii. c. vi.
1776. ciously sunk their fortunes for high annuities, which,
after a few years, ceased to be paid, in consequence Ætat. 67.
of the ruined circumstances of the borrower."
Mrs. Williams was very peevish; and I wondered at Johnson's patience with her now, as I had often done on similar occasions. The truth is, that his humane consideration of the forlorn and indigent state in which this lady was left by her father, induced him to treat her with the utmost tenderness, and even to be desirous of procuring her amusement, so as sometimes to incommode many of his friends, by carrying her with him to their houses, where, from her manner of eating, in consequence of her blind. ness, she could not bụt offend the delicacy of persons of nice sensations. * After coffee, we went to afternoon service in St. Clement's church. Observing some beggars in the street as we walked along, I said to him, I supposed there was no civilized country in the world, where the misery of want in the lowest classes of the people was prevented. JOHNSON. “ I believe, Sir, there is not; but it is better that some should be unhappy, than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality.”
When the service was ended, I went home with him, and we sat quietly by ourselves. He recommended Dr. Cheyne's books. I said, I thought Cheyne had been reckoned whimsical." So he was, (said he,) in some things ; but there is no end of objections.
There are few books to which some objection or other may not be made.”
He added, “I would not have you read any thing else of Cheyne, but his book on Health, and his · English Malady."