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he was better than his word; for after we had drunk tea with Mrs. Williams, he asked me to go up to his study with him, where we sat a long while together in a serene undisturbed frame of mind, sometimes in silence, and sometimes conversing, as we felt ourselves inclined, or more properly speaking, as he was inclined; for during all the course of my long intimacy with him, my respectful attention never abated, and my wish to hear him was such, that I constantly watched every dawning of communication from that great and illuminated mind.
He observed, “ All knowledge is of itself of some value. There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable, that I would not rather know it than not. Ir the same manner, all power, of whatever sort, is of itself desirable. A man would not submit to learn to hem a ruffle of his wife, or his wife's maid: but if a mere wish could attain it, he would rather wish to be able to hem a ruffle." (')
He again advised me to keep a journal fully and minutely, but not to mention such trifies as that meat was too much or too little done, or that the weather was fair or rainy. He had till very near his death a contempt for the notion that the weather affects the human frame.
I told him that our friend Goldsmith had said to me that he had come too late into the world, for that Pope and other poets had taken up the places in the Temple of Fame; so that as but a few at any period
(1) Johnson said, that he had once attempted to learn knitting from Dempster's sister: post, 7th April, 1778. — C.
can possess poetical reputation, a man of genius cap now hardly acquire it. Johnson. “ That is one o. the most sensible things I have ever heard of Goldsmith. It is difficult to get literary fame, and it is every day growing more difficult. h, Sir, that should make a man think of securing happiness in another world, which all who try sincerely for it may attain. In comparison of that, how little are all other things! The belief of immortality is impressed upon all men, and all men act under an impression of it, however they may talk, and though, perhaps, they may be scarcely sensible of it.” I said, it appeared to me that some people had not the leas. notion of immortality ; and I mentioned a distinguished gentleman of our acquaintance. Johnson. “ Sir, if it were not for the notion of immortality, he would cut a throat to fill his pockets.” When I quoted this to Beauclerk, who knew much more of the gentleman than we did, he said in his acid manner, “He would cut a throat to fill his pockets, if it were not for fear of being hanged.”
Dr. Johnson proceeded : “ Sir, there is a great cry about infidelity: but there are, in reality, very few infidels. I have heard a person, originally a Quaker, but now, I am afraid, a Deist, say, that he did not believe there were, in all England, above two hundred infidels."
He was pleased to say, “ If you come to settle here, we will have one day in the week on which we will meet by ourselves. That is the happies . conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm quiet interchange of senti
ments.” In his private register this evening is thus marked, “ Boswell sat with me till night; we had some serious talk." (0) It also appears from the same record, that after I left him he was occupied in religious duties, in “ giving Francis, his servant, some directions for preparation to communicate; in reviewing his life, and resolving on better conduct.”
“ Easter Eve, April 15. 1775. — I rose more early than is common, after a night disturbed by flatulencies, though I had taken so little. I prayed, but my mind was unsettled, and I did not fix upon the book. After the bread and tea, I trifled, and about three ordered coffee and buns for my dinner. I find more faintness and uneasiness in fasting than I did formerly. - While coffee was preparing, Collier came in, a man whom I had not seen for more than twenty years, but whom I consulted about Macky's books. We talked of old friends and past occurrences, and eat and drank together. I then read a little in the Testament, and tried Fiddes's Body of Divinity, but did not settle. I then went to evening prayer, and was tolerably composed." () The humility and piety which he discovers on such occasions is truly edifying. No saint, however, in the course of his religious warfare, was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves than John
He said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject, “Sir, hell is paved with good intentions.” (3)
(1) Prayers and Meditations, p. 128. (2) Ibid. p. 139.
(3) This is a proverbial sentence. “Hell,” says Herbert, “ is full of good meanings and wishings." - Jacula Prudentum, p. 11. edit. 1651. - MALONE.
On Sunday, 16th April, being Easter-day, after having attended the solemn service at St. Paul's, I dined with Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Williams. I maintained that Horace was wrong in placing happiness in Nil admirari, for that I thought admiration one of the most agreeable of all our feelings; and I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. Johnson. “ Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration,-judgment, to estimate things at their true value.” I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgment, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne. Johnson. “ No, Sir; admiration and love are like being intoxicated with champagne; judgment and friendship like being enlivened. Waller has hit upon the same thought with you (1): but I don't believe you have borrowed from Waller. I wish you would enable yourself to borrow more.”
He then took occasion to enlarge on the advantages of reading, and combated the idle superficial notion, that knowledge enough may be acquired in conversation. “ The foundation,” said he, “ must be laid by reading. General principles must be had from books, which, however, must be brought to the test of real life. In conversation you
(1) “Amoret’s as sweet and good
As the most delicious food;
“ Sacharissa's beauty's wine,
Which to madness does incline;
never get a system. What is said upon a subject is to be gathered from a hundred people. The parts of a truth, which a man gets thus, are at such a distance from each other that he never attains to a full view.”
LETTER 210. TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
“ April 17. 1775. “ DEAR SIR, - I have inquired more minutely about the medicine for the rheumatism, which I am sorry to hear that you still want. The receipt is this :
“ Take equal quantities of flour of sulphur, and flour of mustard-seed, make them an electuary with honey or treacle ; and take a bolus as big as a nutmeg several times a day, as you can bear it; drinking after it a quarter of a pint of the infusion of the root of lovage.
Lovage, in Ray's 'Nomenclature,' is levisticum : perhaps the botanists may know the Latin name. Of this medicine I pretend not to judge. There is all the appearance of its efficacy, which a single instance can afford : the patient was very old, the pain very violent, and the relief, I think, speedy and lasting.
My opinion of alterative medicine is not high, but quid tentasse nocebit ? if it does harm, or does no good, it may be omitted ; but that it may do good, you have, I hope, reason to think is desired by, Sir, your most affectionate, humble servant,
5 SAM. JOHNSON."