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Talking of a man who was grown very fat, so as to be incommoded with corpulency, he said, "He eats too much, Sir." Boswell. "I don't know, Sir; you will see one man fat, who eats moderately, and another lean, who eats a great deal." JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, whatever may be the quantity that a man eats, it is plain that if he is too fat he has eaten more than he should have done. One man may have a digestion that consumes food better than common; but it is certain that solidity is increased by putting something to it." BOSWELL. "But may not solids swell and be distended ?" JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir, they may swell and be distended; but that is not fat."
We talked of the accusation against a gentleman for supposed delinquencies in India. JOHNSON. "What foundation there is for accusation I know not, but they will not get at him. Where bad actions are committed at so great a distance, a delinquent can obscure the evidence till the scent becomes cold; there is a cloud between, which cannot be penetrated therefore all distant power is bad. I am clear that the best plan for the government of India is a despotic governor; for if he be a good man, it is evidently the best government; and supposing him to be a bad man, it is better to have one plunderer than many. A governor whose power is checked lets others plunder, that he himself may be allowed to plunder; but if despotic, he sees that the more he lets others plunder, the less there will be for himself, so he restrains them; and though he himself plunders, the country is a gainer, compared with being plundered by numbers."
I mentioned the very liberal payment which had been received for reviewing; and as evidence of this, that it had been proved in a trial, that Dr. Shebbeare had received six guineas a sheet for that kind of literary labour. JOHNSON. "Sir, he might get six guineas for a particular sheet, but not communibus sheetibus.” BOSWELL.
but the general resurrection; it is in sure and certain hope of the resurrection; not his resurrection. Where the deceased is really spoken of, the expression is very different,-'as our hope is this our brother doth,' [rest in Christ]: a mode of speech consistent with everything but absolute certainty that the person departed doth not rest in Christ, which no one can be assured of without immediate revelation from Heaven. In the first of these places, also, 1 eternal life' does not necessarily mean eternity of bliss, but merely the eternity of the state, whether in happiness or in misery, to ensue upon the resurrection; which is probably the sense of 'the life everlasting,' in the Apostles' Creed. See Wheatly and Bennet on the Common Prayer."
"Pray, Sir, by a sheet of review, is it meant that it shall be all of the writer's own composition? or are extracts, made from the book reviewed, deducted?" JOHNSON. "No, Sir; it is a sheet, no matter of what." BOSWELL. "I think that is not reasonable." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir, it is. A man will more easily write a sheet all his own, than read an octavo volume to get extracts." To one of Johnson's wonderful fertility of mind, I believe writing was really easier than reading and extracting; but with ordinary men the case is very different. A great deal, indeed, will depend upon the care and judgment with which extracts are made. I can suppose the operation to be tedious and difficult; but in many instances we must observe crude morsels cut out of books as if at random; and when a large extract is made from one place, it surely may be done with very little trouble. One, however, I must acknowledge, might be led, from the practice of reviewers, to suppose that they take a pleasure in original writing; for we often find, that instead of giving an accurate account of what has been done by the author whose work they are reviewing, which is surely the proper business of a literary journal, they produce some plausible and ingenious conceits of their own, upon the topics which have been discussed.
Upon being told that old Mr. Sheridan, indignant at the neglect of his oratorical plans, had threatened to go to America: JOHNSON. "I hope he will go to America." BOSWELL. "The Americans don't want oratory." JOHNSON. "But we can want Sheridan."
On Monday, April 28, I found him at home in the morning, and Mr. Seward with him. Horace having been mentioned: Boswell. "There is a great deal of thinking in his works. One finds there almost everything but religion." SEWARD. "He speaks of his returning to it, in his Ode Parcus Deorum cultor et infrequens." JOHNSON. "Sir, he was not in earnest; this was merely poetical." BOSWELL. There are, I am afraid, many people who have no religion at all." SEWARD. "And sensible people too. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, not sensible in that respect. There must be either a natural or a moral stupidity, if one lives in a total neglect of so very important a concern." SEWARD. "I wonder that there should be people without religion." JOHNSON. "Sir, you need not wonder at this, when you consider how large a proportion of almost every
man's life is passed without thinking of it. I myself was for some
years totally regardless of religion. It had dropped out of my mind. It was at an early part of my life. Sickness brought it back, and I hope I have never lost it since. BOSWELL. "My dear, Sir, what a man must you have been without religion! Why you must have gone on drinking, and swearing, and-" JOHNSON (with a smile). "I drank enough, and swore enough, to be sure." SEWARD. "One should think that sickness and the view of death would make more men religious." JOHNSON. "Sir, they do not know how to go about it; they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no more grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation.
I mentioned a worthy friend of ours, whom we valued much [Mr. Langton] but observed that he was too ready to introduce religious discourse upon all occasions. JOHNSON. Why, yes, Sir, he will introduce religious discourse without seeing whether it will end in instruction and improvement, or produce some profane jest. He would introduce it in the company of Wilkes, and twenty more such.
I mentioned Dr. Johnson's excellent distinction between liberty of conscience and liberty of teaching. JOHNSON. "Consider, Sir; if you have children whom you wish to be educated in the principles of the church of England, and there comes a quaker who tries to pervert them to his principles, you would drive away the quaker. You would not trust to the predomination of right, which you believe is in your opinions; you will keep wrong out of their heads. Now the vulgar are the children of the state. If any one attempts to teach them doctrines contrary to what the state approves, the magistrate may and ought to restrain him." SEWARD. "Would you restrain private conversation, Sir?" JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, it is difficult to say where private conversation begins, and where it ends. If we three should discuss even the great question concerning the existence of a Supreme Being by ourselves, we should not be restrained; for that would be to put an end to all improvement. But if we should discuss it in the presence of ten boarding-school girls, and as many boys, I think the magistrate would do well to put us in the stocks, to finish the debate there."
ANCIENT AND MODERN LEARNING.
Lord Hailes had sent him a present of a curious little printed poem, on repairing the university of Aberdeen, by David Mallock, which he thought would please Johnson, as affording clear evider.ce that Mallet had appeared even as a literary character by the name of Malloch; his changing which to one of softer sound had given Johnson occasion to introduce him into his Dictionary, under the article Alias.1 This piece was, I suppose, one of Mallet's first essays. It is preserved in his works, with several variations. Johnson having read aloud, from the beginning of it, where there were some common-place assertions as to the superiority of ancient times :-"How false," said he, "is all this, to say that 'in ancient times learning was not a disgrace to a peer, as it is now!' In ancient times a peer was as ignorant as any one else. He would have been angry to have it thought he could write his name. Men in ancient times dared to stand forth with a degree of ignorance with which nobody would now dare to stand forth. I am always angry when I hear ancient times praised at the expense of modern times. There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly; for it is universally diffused. You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley; no man who knows as much mathematics as Newton: but you have many more men who know Greek and Latin, and who know mathematics."
On Thursday, 1st May, I visited him in the evening along with young Mr. Burke. He said, "It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have anything else to amuse them. There must be an external impulse; emulation, or vanity, or avarice.
1 Malloch, as Mr. Bindley observes to me, "continued to write his name thus, after he came to London. His verses prefixed to the second edition of Thomson's 'Winter' are so subscribed, and so are his letters written in London, and published a few years ago in 'The European Magazine;' but he soon afterwards adopted the alteration to Mallet, for he is so called in the list of subscribers to Savage's Miscellanies, printed in 1726; and thenceforward uniformly Mallet, in all his writings."-M. A notion has been entertained, that no such exemplification of Alias is to be found in Johnson's Dictionary, and that the whole story was waggishly fabricated by Wilkes in the "North Briton." The real fact is, that it is not to be found in the folio or quarto editions, but was added by Johnson in his own octavo abridgment, in 1756.-J. BosWELL, Jun. It still remains in the octavo editions, at least it is in mine of 1794.-C.
The progress which the understanding makes through a book has more pain than pleasure in it. Language is scanty and inadequate to express the nice gradations and mixtures of our feelings. No man reads a book of science from pure inclination. The books that we do read with pleasure are light compositions, which contain a quick succession of events. However, I have this year read all Virgil through. I read a book of the Æneid every night, so it was done in twelve nights, and I had a great delight in it. The Georgics did not give me so much pleasure, except the fourth book. The Eclogues I have almost all by heart. I do not think the story of the Eneid interesting. I like the story of the Odyssey much better; and this not on account of the wonderful things which it contains; for there are wonderful things enough in the Æneid ;—the ships of the Trojans turned to sea-nymphs, the tree at Polydorus's tomb dropping blood. The story of the Odyssey is interesting as a great part of it is domestic. It has been said there is pleasure in writing, particularly in writing verses. I allow you may have pleasure from writing after it is over, if you have written well;' but you don't go willingly to it again. I know, when I have been writing verses, I have run my finger down the margin, to see how many I had made, and how few I had to make."
He seemed to be in a very placid humour; and although I have no note of the particulars of young Mr. Burke's conversation, it is but justice to mention in general, that it was such that Dr. Johnson said to me afterwards, "He did very well indeed; I have a mind to tell his father."
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
"May 2, 1788.
"DEAR SIR,―The gentleman who waits on you with this is Mr. Cruikshanks, who wishes to succeed his friend Dr. Hunter as professor of anatomy in the royal academy. His qualifications are very generally known, and it adds dignity to the institution that such men3 are candidates. I am, Sir, &c.
1 Dum pingit, fruitur arte; postquam pinxerat, fruitur fructu artis.-Seneca.-KEARNEY. 2 This gentleman, to the inexpressible grief of his parents, died Aug. 2, 1794, in his thirtyfifth year.-M.
3 Let it be remembered by those who accuse Dr. Johnson of illiberality, tha, both were Scotchmen.