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congenial to our happy constitution, and which, by the intrepid exertions of Mr. Wilkes, has been happily established.

He said, "The duration of parliament, whether for seven years or the life of the king, appears to me so immaterial, that I would not give half-a-crown to turn the scale one way or the other. The habeas corpus is the single advantage which our government has over that of other countries '."

On the 30th of September we dined together at the Mitre. I attempted to argue for the superiour happiness of the savage life, upon the usual fanciful topicks. JOHNSON. "Sir, there can be nothing more false. The savages have no bodily advantages beyond those of civilized men. They have not better health; and as to care or mental uneasiness, they are not above it, but below it, like bears. No, sir; you are not to talk such paradox: let me have no more on 't. It cannot entertain, far less can it instruct. Lord Monboddo, one of your Scotch judges, talked a great deal of such nonsense. I suffered him; but I will not suffer you." BOSWELL. "But, sir, does not Rousseau talk such nonsense?" JOHNSON. "True, sir, but Rousseau knows he is talking nonsense, and laughs at the world for staring at him." BOSWELL." How so, sir?" JOHNSON. Why, sir, a man who talks nonsense so well, must know that he is talking nonsense. But I am afraid (chuckling and laughing), Monboddo does not know that he is talking nonsense 2. BOSWELL. "Is it


[Did he reckon the power of the commons over the public purse as nothing? and did he calculate how long the habeas corpus might exist, if the liberty of the press were destroyed, and the duration of parliaments unlimited ?— ED.]

2 His lordship having frequently spoken in an abusive manner of Dr. Johnson, in my company, I on one occasion, during the lifetime of my illustrious friend, could not refrain from retaliation, and repeated to him this saying. He has since published I don't know how many pages in one of his curious books, attempting in much anger, but with pitiful effect, to persuade mankind that my illustrious friend was not the great and good man which they esteemed and ever will esteem him to be.-BOSWELL.

Piozzi, p. 83 & 157.

wrong then, sir, to affect singularity, in order to make people stare?" JOHNSON. "Yes, if you do it by propagating errour; and, indeed, it is wrong in any way. There is in human nature a general inclination to make people stare, and every wise man has himself to cure of it, and does cure himself. If you wish to make people stare by doing better than others, why make them stare till they stare their eyes out. But consider how easy it is to make people stare, by being absurd. I may do it by going into a drawing-room without my shoes. You remember the gentleman in 'The Spectator,' who had a commission of lunacy taken out against him for his extreme singularity, such as never wearing a wig, but a nightcap. Now, sir, abstractedly, the nightcap was best; but, relatively, the advantage was overbalanced by his making the boys run after him."

[All desire of singularity had indeed a sure enemy in Dr. Johnson. Few people had a more settled reverence for the world than he, or was less captivated by new modes of behaviour introduced, or innovations on the long received customs of common life. One day, in company with Mrs. Thrale, they met a friend driving six very small ponies, and stopped to admire them. "Why does nobody," said Johnson, "begin the fashion of driving six spavined horses, all spavined of the same leg? it would have a mighty pretty effect, and produce the distinction of doing something worse than the common way." He hated the modern way of leaving a company without taking notice to the lady of the house that he was going; and did not much like any of the contrivances by which ease has been lately introduced into society instead of ceremony, which had more of his approbation. Cards, dress, and dancing, however, all found their advocates in Dr. Johnson, who inculcated, upon principle, the cultivation of those arts, which many a moralist thinks

p. 83,84.

himself bound to reject, and many a Christian holds Piozzi, unfit to be practised. "No person," said he, one day, "goes under-dressed till he thinks himself of consequence enough to forbear carrying the badge of his rank upon his back." And, in answer to the arguments urged by Puritans, Quakers, &c. against showy decorations of the human figure, I once heard him exclaim, "Oh, let us be found when our Master calls us, ripping not the lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of contention from our souls and tongues! Let us all conform in outward customs, which are of no consequence, to the manners of those whom we live among, and despise such paltry distinctions. Alas, sir," continued he, "a man who cannot get to heaven in a green coat, will not find his way thither the sooner in a grey one."]

Talking of a London life, he said, "The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say, there is more learning and science within the circumference of ten miles from where we now sit, than in all the rest of the kingdom." BOSWELL. "The only disadvantage is the great distance at which people live from one another." JOHNSON. "Yes, sir; but that is occasioned by the largeness of it, which is the cause of all the other advantages." BOSWELL. "Sometimes I have been in the humour of wishing to retire to a desert." JOHNSON. "Sir, you have desert enough in Scotland."

Although I had promised myself a great deal of instructive conversation with him on the conduct of the married state, of which I had then a near prospect, he did not say much upon that topick. Mr. Seward' heard


[Mr. William Seward, author of the Anecdotes of Eminent Persons, and some other Ana, who must not be confounded with Mr. Seward, the canon of Lichfield. ED.]

him once say, that " a man has a very bad chance for happiness in that state, unless he marries a woman of very strong and fixed principles of religion." He maintained to me, contrary to the common notion, that a woman would not be the worse wife for being learned; in which, from all that I have observed of Artemisias', I humbly differed from him. That a woman should be sensible and well informed, I allow to be a great advantage; and think that Sir Thomas Overbury, in his rude versification, has very judiciously pointed out that degree of intelligence which is to be desired in a female companion:

"Give me, next good, an understanding wife,

By nature wise, not learned by much art:
Some knowledge on her side will all my life

More scope of conversation impart;

Besides, her inborne virtue fortifie;

They are most firmly good, who best know why."

When I censured a gentleman of my acquaintance for marrying a second time, as it showed a disregard of his first wife, he said, "Not at all, sir. On the contrary, were he not to marry again, it might be concluded that his first wife had given him a disgust of marriage; but by taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time." second time." So ingenious a turn did he give to this delicate question. And yet, on another occasion, he owned that he once had almost asked a promise of Mrs. Johnson that she would not marry again, but had checked himself. Indeed I cannot help thinking, that in his case the request would have been unreasonable; for if Mrs. Johnson forgot, or thought it no injury to the memory of her first love, the husband of her youth and the father of

[See Pope's satirical verses against a learned lady, entitled "Artemisia." -ED.]

2 "A Wife," a poem, 1614-BOSWELL.

her children, to make a second marriage, why should she be precluded from a third, should she be so inclined? In Johnson's persevering fond appropriation of his Tetty, even after her decease, he seems totally to have overlooked the prior claim of the honest Birmingham trader1. I presume that her having been married before had, at times, given him some uneasiness; for I remember his observing upon the marriage of one of our common friends, "He has done a very foolish thing, sir; he has married a widow, when he might have had a maid.”

We drank tea with Mrs. Williams. I had last -year the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Thrale at Dr. Johnson's one morning, and had conversation enough with her to admire her talents; and to show her that I was as Johnsonian as herself. Dr. Johnson had probably been kind enough to speak well of me, for this evening he delivered me a very polite card from Mr. Thrale and her, inviting me to Streatham.

On the 6th October I complied with this obliging invitation, and found, at an elegant villa, six miles from town, every circumstance that can make society pleasing. Johnson, though quite at home, was yet looked up to with an awe, tempered by affection, and seemed to be equally the care of his host and hostess. I rejoiced at seeing him so happy.

He played off his wit against Scotland with a goodhumoured pleasantry, which gave me, though no bigot to national prejudices, an opportunity for a little contest with him. I having said that England was obliged to us for gardeners, almost all their good gardeners being Scotchmen:-JOHNSON. Why, sir, that is because gardening is much more necessary


[Yet his inquisitive mind might have been struck by his friend Hervey's startling question to Sir Thomas Hanmer, relative to the lady who was the cause of their contention: "In heaven, whose wife shall she be ?" See ante, p. 33. -ED.]

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