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immediately entered on the subject, and treated' it in a masterly manner. His thoughts were these: “ As men become in a high degree refined, various causes of offence arise, which are considered to be of such importance, that life must be staked to atone for them, though in reality they are not so. A body that has received a very fine polish may be easily hurt. Before men arrive at that artificial refinement, if one tells his neighbour he lies, his neighbour tells him he lies; if one gives his neighbour a blow, his neighbour gives him a blow: but in a state of highly polished society, an affront is held to be a serious injury. It must, therefore, be resented, or rather a duel must be fought upon it; as men have agreed to banish from their society one who puts up with an affront without fighting a duel. Now, Sir, it is never unlawful to fight in self defence. He, then, who fights a duel, does not fight from passion against his antagonist, but out of self defence, to avert the stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of society. I could wish there was not that superfluity of refinement; but while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may lawfully fight a duel.”
This justification is applicable only to the person who receives an affront. All mankind must condemn the aggressor.
The General said, that when he was a very
young man, only fifteen, serving under Prince Eugene of Savoy, he was sitting in a company at table with a Prince of Wirtemberg. The Prince took up a glass of wine, and, by a fillip, made some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. Here was a nice dilemma. To have challenged him instantly might have fixed a quarrelsome character upon the young soldier; to have taken no notice of it might have been considered as cowardice. Oglethorpe therefore, keeping his eye upon the Prince, and smiling all the time, as if he took what his Highness had done in jest, said, in French, “That's a good joke; but we do it much better in England;" and threw a whole glass of wine in the Prince's face. An old General who sat by, said, ' Il a bien fait; mon Prince, vous l'avez commencé;' and thus all ended in good humour.
At another time Johnson defended duelling, and put his argument upon what is perhaps the most solid basis; namely, that if public war be cllowed to be consistent with morality, private war must be equally so*.
*“Indeed (says Mr. Boswell) we may observe what strained arguments are used to reconcile war with the Christian religion, But, in my opinion, it is exceedingly clear, that duelling, having better reasons for its barbarous violence, is more justifiable than war, in which thousands go forth, without any cause of personal quarrel, and massacre each other."
JOHNSON thought portrait-painting an improper employment for a woman. “ Public practice of any art (he observed), and staring in men's faces, is very indelicate in a female."
He remarked once, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, " that a beggar in the street will more readily ask alms from a man, though there should be no marks of wealth in his appearance, than from even a well-dressed woman; which he accounted for from the greater degree of carefulness as to money that is to be found in women; saying far. ther upon it, that the opportunities in general that they possess of improving their condition are much fewer than men have; and adding, as he looked round the comapny, which consisted of men only, there is not one of us who does not think he might be richer if he would use his endeavour."
He talked with serious concern of a certain fe. male friend's“ laxity of narration, and inattention to truth.”-“I am as much vexed (said he) at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to her, as at the thing itself. I told her, “ Madam, you are contented to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have died rather than bear.'-You know, Mr. Boswell, the highest of mankind have died rather than bear to be told they have uttered a falsehood. Do talk to her of it: I am weary."
The wife of one of his acquaintance had fraudulently made a purse for herself out of her husband's fortune. Feeling a proper compunction in her last moments, she confessed how much she had secreted; but before she could tell where it was placed, she was seized with a convulsive fit, and expired. Her husband said, he was more hurt by her want of confidence in him than by the loss of his money. “I told him (said Johnson) that he should console himself; for perhaps the money might be found, and he was sure that his wife was lost,"
Mr. Boswell once stated to him this case: “ Suppose a man has a daughter, who he knows has been seduced, but her misfortune is concealed from the world, should he keep her in his house? Would he not, by doing so, be accessary to imposition? And, perhaps, a worthy unsuspecting man might come and marry this woman, unless the father inform him of the truth.”—Johnson replied, “ Sir, he is accessary to no imposition. His daughter is in his house; and if a man courts her, he takes his chance. If a friend, or, indeed, if any man asks his opinion whether he should marry her, he ought to advise
him against it, without telling why, because his real opinion is then required. Or, if he has other daughters who know of her frailty, he ought not to keep her in his house. You are to consider, the state of life is this; we are to judge of one another's characters as well as we can; and a man is not bound, in honesty or honour, to tell us the faults of his daughter or of himself. A man who has debauched his friend's daughter is not obliged to say to every body—“Take care of me; don't let me into your houses without suspicion. I once debauched a friend's daughter. I may debauch yours.'
As Johnson was zealous friend of subordination, he was at all times watchful to repress the vulgar cant against the manners of the great.
High people, Sir (said he), are the best.—Take a hundred ladies of quality, you'll find them better wives, better mothers, more willing to sacrifice their own pleasure to their children, than a hundred other women. Tradeswomen (I mean the wives of tradesmen) in the city, who are worth from ten to fifteen thousand pounds, are the worst creatures upon the earth; grossly ignorant, and thinking viciousness fashionable. Farmers, I think, are often worthless fellows. - Few lords will cheat; and, if they do, they'll be ashamed of it; farmers cheat, and are not ashamed of it: they have all the sensual vices, too, of the nobility,