페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

He had dined the day before at another bishop's. I have anfortupately recorded none of his conversation at the bishop's where we dined together : but I have preserved his ingenious defence of his dining twice abroad in Passion-week; a laxity in which I am convinced he would not have indulged himself at the time when he wrote his solemn paper in “ The Rambler” upon that awful season. It appeared to me, that by being much more in company, and enjoying more luxurious living, he had contracted a keener relish for pleasure, and was consequently less rigorous in his religious rites. This he would not acknowledge ; but he reasoned with admirable sopbistry as follows: "Why, Sir, a bishop's calling company together in this week is, to use the vulgar phrase, not the thing. But you must consider laxity is a bad thing ; but preciseness is also a bad thing ; and your general character may be more hurt by preciseness than by dining with a bishop in Passion-week. There might be a handle for reflection. It might be said, 'He refuses to dine with a bishop in Passion-week, but was three Sundays absent from church.'' BOSWELL.“ Very true, Sir. But suppose a man to be uniformly of good conduct, would it not be better that he should refuse to dine with a bishop in this week, and so pot encourage a bad practice by his example ?” Johnson. "Why, Sir, yon are to consider whether you might not do more harm by lessening the influence of a bishop's character by your disapprobation in refusing him, than by going to him."

LETTER 398.
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.

“ London, April 12, 1731. “DEAR MADAM,-Life is full of troubles. I have just lost my dear friend Thrale. I hope he is happy ; but I have had a great loss. I am otherwise pretty well. I require some care of myself, but that care is not ineffectual ; and when I am out of order, I think it often my own fault.

“The spring is now making quick advances. As it is the season in which the whole world is enlivened and invigorated, I hope that both you and I shall partake of its benefits. My desire is to see Lichfield; but being left exe. cutor to my friend, I know not whether I can be spared; but I will try, for it is now long since we saw one another; and how little we can promise our selves many more interviews, we are taught by hourly examples of mortality Let us try to live so as that mortality may not be an evil.

Write to me soon, my dearest: your letters will give me great pleasure.

“I am sorry that Mr. Porter has not had his box; but by sending it to Mr. Mathias, who very readily undertook its conveyance, I did the best I could, and perhaps before now he has it. Be so kind as to make my compliments to my friends. I have a great value for their kindness, and hope to enjoy it before summer is past. Do write to me. I am, dearest love, your, &c.

“San. Johnson."

On Friday, April 13, being Good Friday, I went to St. Clement's church with him as usual. There I saw again his old fellow-collegian, Edwards, to whom I said, “I think, Sir, Dr. Johnson and you meet only at church." Sir," said he, “it is the best place we can meet in, except heaven, and I hope we shall meet there too." Dr. Johnsou told me that there was very little communication between Edwards and him after their unexpected renewal of acquaintance. “But,” said he, smiling, “he met me once and said, 'I am told you have written a very pretty book called “The Rambler. I was unwilling that he should leave the world in total darkness, and sent him a set."

Mr. Berenger visited him to-day, and was very pleasing. We talked of an evening society for conversation at a house in town, of which we were all members, but of which Johnson said, “ It will never do, Sir. There is nothing served about there ; neither tea, nor coffee, nor lemonade, nor anything whatever ; and depend upon it, Sir, a man does not love to go to a place from whence he comes out exactly as he went in." I endeavoured, for argument's sake, to maintain that men of learning and talents might have very good intellectual society, without the aid of any little gratifications of the senses. Berenger joined with Johnson, and said that without these any meeting would be dull and insipid. He would therefore have all the slight refreshments ; nay, it would not be amiss to have some cold meat, and a bottle of wine upon the sideboard. said Johnson to me, with an air of triumph, “Mr. Berenger knows the world. Everybody loves to have good things furnished to them without any trouble. I told Mrs. Thrale once, that, as she did not choose to have card-tables, she should have a profusion of the best sweetmeats, and she would be sure to have company enough come to her.” I agreed with my illustrious friend upon this subject; for it has pleased God to make man a composite animal, and

"Sir,"

where there is nothing to refresh the body, the mind will languish.

On Sunday, April 15, being Easter day, after solemn worship in St. Paul's church, I found him alone. Dr. Scott, of the Commons, came in. He talked of its having been said, that Addison wrote some of his best papers in “The Spectator” when warm with wine. Dr. Johnson did not seem willing to admit this. Dr. Scott, as a confirmation of it, related that Blackstone, a sober man, composed his “ Commentaries” with a bottle of port before him ; and found bis mind invigorated and supported in the fatigue of his great work, by a temperate use of it.

I told him that in a company where I had lately been, a desire was expressed to know his authority for the shocking story of Addison's sending an execution into Steele's house. “Sir,” said he, it is generally known ; it is known to all who are acquainted with the literary history of that period; it is as well known as that he wrote Cato.' Mr. Thomas Sheridan once defended Addison to me, by alleging that he did it in order to cover Steele's goods from other creditors, who were going to seize them.”

We talked of the difference between the mode of education at Oxford and that in those colleges where instruction is chiefly conveyed by lectures. Johnson. "Lectures were once useful; but now, when all can read, and books are so numerous, lectures are unnecessary. If your attention fails, and you miss a part of the lecture, it is lost; you cannot go back, as you do upon a book.” Dr. Scott agreed with him. “But, yet," said I, “Dr. Scott, you yourself gave lectures at Oxford.” He smiled. “You laughed," then said I, " at those who came to you.”

Dr. Scott left us, and soon afterwards we went to dinner. Our company consisted of Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins, Mr. Levett, Mr. Allen, the printer, (Mr. Macbean), and Mrs. Hall, sister of the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, and resembling him, as I thought, both in figure and manner. Johnson produced now, for the first time, some handsome silver salvers, which he told me he had bought fourteen years ago; so it was a great day. I was nct a little amused by observing Allen perpetually struggling to talk in

the manner of Johnson, like the little frog in the fable blowing himself

up

to resemble the stately ox. I mentioned a kind of religious Robin-Hood society, which met every Sunday evening at Coachmakers’-hall, for free debate; and that the subject for this night was, the text which relates, with other miracles which happened at our Saviour's death, “And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." Mrs. Hall said it was a very curious subject, and she should like to hear it discussed. Johnson (somewhat warmly), “One would not go to such a place to hear it-one would not be seen in such a place—to give countenance to such a meeting.” I, however, resolved that I would go. • But, Sir,” said she to Johnson, “I should like to hear you discuss it.” He seemed reluctant to engage in it. She talked of the resurrection of the buman race in general, and maintained that we shall be raised with the same bodies. Johnson. “Nay, Madam, we see that it is not to be the same body ; for the Scripture uses the illustration of grain sown, and we know that the grain which grows is not the same with what is sown.

You cannot suppose that we shall rise with a diseased body ; it is enough if there be such a sameness as to distinguish identity of person.” She seemed desirous of knowing more, but he left the question in obscurity.

Of apparitions,' he observed, “A total disbelief of them is adverse to the opinion of the existence of the soul between death and the last day; the question simply is, whether departed spirits ever have the power of making themselves perceptible to us; a man who thinks he has seen an apparition can only be convinced himself; his authority will not convince another; and his conviction,

1 As this subject frequently occurs in these volumes, the reader may be led erroneously to suppose that Dr. Johnson was so fond of such discussions as frequently to introduce them. But the truth is, that the author himself delighted in talking concerning ghosts, and what he has frequently denominated the mysterious; and therefore took every opportunity of lead. ing Johnson to converse on such subjects.-M. The author of this work was most undoubt. edly fond of the mysterious, and perhaps upon some occasions may have directed the conversation to those topics, when they would not spontaneously have suggested themselves to Johnson's mind; but that he also had a love for speculations of that nature may be gathered from his writings throughout.-J. BOSWELL, Jun.

if rational, must be founded on being told something which cannot be known but by supernatural means."

He mentioned a thing as not unfrequent, of which I had never heard before—being called, that is, hearing one's name pronounced by the voice of a known person at a great distance, far beyond the possibility of being reached by any sound uttered by human organs. "An acquaintance, on whose veracity I can depend, told me, that walking home one evening to Kilmarnock, he heard himself called from a wood by the voice of a brother who had gone to America; and the next packet brought accounts of that brother's death." Macbean asserted that this inexplicable calling was a thing very well known. Dr. Johnson said, that one day at Oxford, as he was turning the key of his chamber, he heard his mother distinctly call -Sam. She was then at Lichfield; but nothing ensued. This phenomenon is, I think, as wonderful as any other mysterious fact, which many people are very slow to believe, or rather, indeed, reject with an obstinate contempt.

Some time after this, upon his making a remark which escaped my attention, Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Hall were both together striving to answer him. He grew angry, and called out loudly, “Nay, when you both speak at once, it is intolerable.” But checking himself, and softening, he said, “This one may say, though you are ladies.” Then he brightened into gay humour, and addressed them in the words of one of the songs in “The Beggar's Opera,"

But two at a time there's no mortal can bear.”

“What, Sir," said I, "are you going to turn Captain Macheath ?” There was something as pleasantly ludicrous in this scene as can be imagined. The contrast between Macheath, Polly, and Lucyand Dr. Samuel Johnson, blind, peevish Mrs. Williams, and lean, lank, preaching Mrs. Hall, was exquisite.

I stole away to Coachmakers'-hall, and heard the difficult text of which we had talked, discussed with great decency, and some intelligence, by several speakers. There was a difference of opinion as to the appearance of ghosts in modern times, though the argument for it, supported by Mr. Addison's authority, preponderated. The immediate subject of debate was embarrassed by the bodies of

« 이전계속 »