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Dr. Johoson was very kind this evening, and said to me, “You have now lived five-and-twenty years, and you have employed them well.” “ Alas, sir," said I, “I fear not. Do I know history? Do I know mathematicks? Do I know law?" JOHNSON. “Why, sir, though you may know no science so well as to be able to teach it, and no profession so well as to be able to follow it, your general mass of knowledge of books and men renders you very capable to make yourself master of any science, or fit yourself for any profession.” I mentioned that a gay friend had advised me against being a lawyer, because I should be excelled by plodding blockheads. JOHNSON.
Why, sir, in the formulary and statutory part of law, a plodding blockhead may excel; but in the ingenious and rational part of it a plodding blockhead can never excel.”.
I talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the world by courting great men, and asked him whether he had ever submitted to it, Johnson. “Why, sir, I never was near enough to great men to court them. may be prudently attached to great men, and yet independent. You are not to do what you think wrong; and, sir, you are to calculate, and not pay too dear for what you get. You must not give a shilling's worth of court for sixpence worth of good. But if you can get a shilling's worth of good for sixpence worth of court, you are a fool if you do not pay court.”
He said, “If convents should be allowed at all, they should only be retreats for persons unable to serve the publick, or who have served it. It is our first duty to serve society; and, after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A youth
observes, that," no doubt, in the world to come, (where the least pleasure is unspeakable,) it cannot be but that he which hath bin most afflicted here, shall conceive and receive more exceeding joy, than he which hath bin touched with lesse tribulation; and yet the joyes of heaven are fitlie compared to vessels filled with licour of ull quantities ; for everie man shall have his full measure there.” Our blessed Lord assured his disciples, that in his Father's house there are many mansions. John xiv. 2. and see St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xv. 41.—En.
ful passion for abstracted devotion should not be encouraged d.”
I introduced the subject of second sight, and other mysterious manifestations; the fulfilment of which, I suggested, might happen by chance. Johnson. “Yes, sir, but they have happened so often, that mankind have agreed to think them not fortuitous.”
I talked to him a great deal of what I had seen in Corsica, and of my intention to publish an account of it. He encouraged me by saying “You cannot go to the bottom of the subject; but all that you tell us will be new to us. Give us as many anecdotes as you can.
Our next meeting at the Mitre was on Saturday the 15th of February, when I presented to him my old and most intimate friend, the reverend Mr. Temple, then of Cambridge. I having mentioned that I had passed some time with Rousseau in his wild retreat, and having quoted some remark made by Mr. Wilkes, with whom I had spent many pleasant hours in Italy, Johnson said, sarcastically, “ It seems, sir, you have kept very good company abroad, Rousseau and Wilkes !” Thinking it enough to defend one at a time, I said nothing as to my gay friend, but answered with a smile, “My dear sir, you don't call Rousseau bad company. Do you really think him a bad man?" JOHNSON. “Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don't talk with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled him: and it is a shame that he is protected in this country.” Boswell. “I don't deny, sir, but that his novel may, perhaps, do harm; but I cannot think his intention was bad.” JOHNSON. “Sir, that will not do. We cannot prove any man's intention to be bad.
Piety practised in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of heaven, and delight those unbodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men; but it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendour of beneficence.-ADVENTURER, 126.
You may shoot a man through the head, and say you intended to miss him ; but the judge will order you to be hanged. An alleged want of intention, when evil is committed, will not be allowed in a court of justice. Rousseau, sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence for his transportation, than that of any felon who has gone from the Old Bailey these many years. Yes, I should like to have him work in the plantations." Boswell, Sir, do you think him as bad a man as Voltaire ?” Johnson. “Why, sir, it is difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between them."
This violence seemed very strange to me, who had read many
of Rousseau's animated writings with great pleasure, and even edification; had been much pleased with his society, and was just come from the continent, where he was very generally admired. Nor can I yet allow that he deserves the very severe censure which Johnson pronounced upon him. His absurd preference of savage to civilized life, and other singularities, are proofs rather of a defect in his understanding, than of any depravity in his heart. And notwithstanding the unfavourable opinion which many worthy men have expressed of his Profession de Foi du Vicaire Savoyard, I cannot help admiring it, as the performance of a man full of sincere reverential submission to divine mystery, though beset with perplexing doubts: a state of mind to be viewed with pity rather than
On his favourite subject of subordination, Johnson said, "So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.”
I mentioned the advice given us by philosophers, to console ourselves, when distressed or embarrassed, by thinking of those who are in a worse situation than ourselves. This, I observed, could not apply to all, for there must be some who have nobody worse than they are. JOHNSON. “Why, to be sure, sir, there are ; but they don't know it. There is no being so poor and so contemp
tible, who does not think there is somebody still poorer, and still more contemptible.”
As my stay in London at this time was very short, I had not many opportunities of being with Dr. Johnson; but I felt my veneration for him in no degree lessened by my having seen “ multorum hominum mores et urbes.” On the contrary, by having it in my power to compare him with many of the most celebrated persons of other countries, my admiration of his extraordinary mind was increased and confirmed.
The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared in his manners, was more striking to me now, from
my having been accustomed to the studied smooth complying habits of the continent; and I clearly recognised in him, not without respect for his honest conscientious zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treating every attempt to unbinge or weaken good principles.
One evening, when a young gentleman teased him with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could not read them in the original tongues, and be sure that they were not invented. “Why, foolish fellow,” said Johnson, “ has he any better authority for almost every thing that he believes ?" Boswell. “Then the vulgar, sir, never can know they are right, but must submit themselves to the learned." JOHNSON. “To be sure, sir. The vulgar are the children of the state, and must be taught like children.” Boswell. “Then, sir, a poor Turk must be a mahometan, just as a poor Englishman must be a christian." JOHNSON. “Why, yes, sir; and what then? This now is such stuff as I used to talk to my mother, when I first began to think myself a clever fellow; and she ought to have whipt me for it."
Another evening Dr. Goldsmith and I called on him, with the hope of prevailing on him to sup with us at the Mitre. We found him indisposed, and resolved not to go abroad. “Come, then," said Goldsmith, “we will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have the big man You give
with us." Johnson then called for a bottle of port, of which Goldsmith and I partook, while our friend, now a water-drinker, sat by us. GOLDSMITH. “I think, Mr. Johnson, you don't go near the theatres now. yourself no more concern about a new play, than if you had never had any thing to do with the stage.” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore.” GOLDSMITH. “Nay, sir; but your muse was not a whore.” JOHNSON. “Sir, I do not think she was. But as we advance in the journey of life, we drop some of the things which have pleased us; whether it be that we are fatigued, and don't choose to carry so many things any farther, or that we find other things which we like better." BOSWELL. “But, sir, why don't you give us something in some other way?" GOLDSMITH. " Aye, sir, we have a claim upon you.” JOHNSON, “No, sir, I am not obliged to do any more.
No man is obliged to do as much as he can do. A man is to have part of his life to himself. If a soldier has fought a good many campaigns, he is not to be blamed if he retires to ease and tranquillity. A physician who has practised long in a great city, may be excused if he retires to a small town, and takes less practice. Now, sir, the good I can do by my conversation bears the same proportion to the good I can do by my writings, that the practice of a physician retired to a small town, does to his practice in a great city.” Boswell. “But I wonder, sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing." John
Sir, you may wonder.” He talked of making verses, and observed, “ The great difficulty is, to know when you have made good ones, When composing, I have generally had them in my mind, perhaps fifty at a time, walking up and down in my room ; and then I have written them down, and often, from laziness, have written only half lines. I have written a hundred lines in a day. I remember I wrote a hundred lines of The Vanity of Human Wishes in a day. Doctor,