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walls of the dining-room at Streatham was Hogarth’s “ Modern Midnight Conversation.” I asked him what he knew of Parson Ford, who made a conspicuous figure in the riotous group. (1) John
“ Sir, he was my acquaintance and relation, my mother's nephew. He had purchased a living in the country, but not simoniacally. I never saw him but in the country. I have been told he was a man of great parts ; very profligate, but I never heard he was impious.” Boswell. “ Was there not a story of his ghost having appeared ?” John
Sir, it was believed. A waiter at the Hummums, in which house Ford died, had been absent for some time, and returne not knowing that Ford was dead.
Going down to the cellar, according to the story, he met him ; going down again, he met him a second time. When he came up, he asked some of the people of the house what Ford could be doing there. They told him Ford was dead. The waiter took a fever, in which he lay for some time. When he recovered, he said he had a message to deliver to some women from Ford; but he was not to tell what, or to whom. He walked out; he was followed; but somewhere about St. Pauls they lost him. He came back, and said he had delivered the message, and the women exclained, Then we are all undone !' Dr. Pellet, who was not a credulous man, inquired into the
(1) The acquiescence of Johnson, on this occasion, seems to authenticate the fact, that Ford was Hogarth’s riotous parson. See antè, Vol. I. p. 46. -C.
truth of this story, and he said the evidence was irresistible. My wife went to the Hummums; (it is a place where people get themselves cupped). I believe she went with intention to hear about this story of Ford. At first they were unwilling to tell her; but, after they had talked to her, she came away satisfied that it was true. To be sure, the man had a fever; and this vision may have been the beginning of it. But if the message to the women, and their behaviour upon it, were true as related, there was something supernatural. That rests upon his word ; and there it remains.”
After Mrs. Thrale was gone to bed, Johnson and I sat up late. We resumed Sir Joshua Reynolds's argument on the preceding Sunday, that a man would be virtuous, though he had no other motive than to preserve his character. Johnson. “ Sir, it is not true; for, as to this world, vice does not hurt a man's character.” BOSWELL. “Yes, Sir, debauching a friend's wife will.” Johnson. “ No, Sir. Who thinks the worse of [Beauclerk] (1) for it?" BOSWELL. “ Lord [Bolingbroke] was not his friend.” Johnson. " That is only a circumstance, Sir; a slight distinction. He could not get into the house but by Lord [Bolingbroke.] A man is choser. knight of the shire not the less for having de bauched ladies.” BOSWELL. What, Sir, if he debauched the ladies of gentlemen in the county, will not there be a general resentment against him ?” JOHNSON. “ No, Sir. He will lose those
(1) See antè, Vol. III. p. 288.-C.
particular gentlemen ; but the rest will not trouble their heads about it" (warmly). Boswell. “ Well, Sir, I cannot think so.” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, there is no talking with a man who will dispute what every body knows (angrily). Don't you know this ?” BOSWELL. “ No, Sir; and I wish to think better of your country than you represent it. I knew in Scotland a gentleman obliged to leave it for debauching a lady; and in one of our counties an earl's brother lost his election because he had debauched the lady of another earl in that county, and destroyed the peace of a noble family."
Still he would not yield. He proceeded : “ Will you not allow, Sir, that vice does not hurt a man's character so as to obstruct his prosperity in life, when you know that [Lord Clive] (1) was loaded with wealth and honours ? a man who had acquired his fortune by such crimes, that his consciousness of them impelled him to cut his own throat.” Bos
You will recollect, Sir, that Dr. Robertson said he cut his throat because he was weary of still life; little things not being sufficient to move his great mind." JOHNSON (very angry). “ Nay, Sir, what stuff is this! You had no more this opinion after Robertson said it than before. I know nothing more offensive than repeating what one knows to be foolish things, by way of continuing a dispute, to see what a man will answer, — to make him your butt !” (angrier still.) BOSWELL. “ My dear Sir, I had no such intention as you seem to suspect ;
(1) See antè, p. 190. — C.
I had not indeed. Might not this nobleman have felt every thing weary, stale, fat, and unprofitable,' as Hamlet says ?” JOHNSON. “ Nay, if you
are to bring in gabble, I 'll talk no more.
I will not, upon my honour.” My readers will decide upon this dispute.
Lord Kames. — Sir George Villiers's Ghost. Innate
Virtue.-- Native Modesty.— Foreign Travel.—Lord Charlemont. - Country Life.—Manners of the Great.
Horne's “ Letter to Dunning.” — Dr. Mead. Rasselas and Candide. Francis's Horace. · Modern Books of Travels. - Lord Chatham. — Vows.
-Education. · Milton's Tractate." Locke. Visit to Warley Camp. – Dr. Burney. - Sir Joshua Reynolds's “ Discourses.”—Publication of the “Lives of the Poets."— Death of Garrick.-- Correspondence.
Next morning I stated to Mrs. Thrale at break fast, before he came down, the dispute of last night as to the influence of character upon success in life. She said he was certainly wrong; and told me that a baronet lost an election in Wales because he had debauched the sister of a gentleman in the county, whom he made one of his daughters invite as her companion at his seat in the country, when his lady and his other children were in London. But she would not encounter Johnson upon the subject.
I staid all this day with him at Streatham. He talked a great deal in very good humour.
Looking at Messrs. Dilly's splendid edition of Lord Chesterfield's miscellaneous works, he laughed,