Boswell's Life of Johnson

Selections,
Edited by Jack Lynch

These selections from James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. are for use in my classes. The text comes from R. W. Chapman's 1904 Oxford edition; the page numbers correspond to those in the Oxford World's Classic edition. I have removed all footnotes, both those by Boswell and by other editors. Please send comments and corrections to Jack Lynch.
[Pages 1275-1304]

[1] On Wednesday, May 5, I arrived in London, and next morning had the pleasure to find Dr. Johnson greatly recovered. I but just saw him; for a coach was waiting to carry him to Islington, to the house of his old friend the Reverend Mr. Strahan, where he went sometimes for the benefit of good air, which, notwithstanding his having formerly laughed at the general opinion upon the subject, he now acknowledged was conducive to health.

[2] One morning afterwards, when I found him alone, he communicated to me, with solemn earnestness, a very remarkable circumstance which had happened in the course of his illness, when he was much distressed by the dropsy. He had shut himself up, and employed a day in particular exercises of religion, — fasting, humiliation, and prayer. On a sudden he obtained extraordinary relief, for which he looked up to Heaven with grateful devotion. He made no direct inference from this fact; but from his manner of telling it, I could perceive that it appeared to him as something more than an incident in the common course of events. For my own part, I have no difficulty to avow that cast of thinking, which, by many modern pretenders to wisdom, is called superstitious. But here I think even men of dry rationality may believe, that there was an intermediate interposition of Divine Providence, and that “the fervent prayer of this righteous man” availed.

[3] On Sunday, May 9, I found Colonel Vallancy, the celebrated Antiquary, and Engineer of Ireland, with him. On Monday, the 10th, I dined with him at Mr. Paradise's, where was a large company; Mr. Bryant, Mr. Joddrel, Mr. Hawkins Browne, &c. On Thursday, the 13th, I dined with him at Mr. Joddrel's, with another large company; the Bishop of Exeter, Lord Monboddo, Mr. Murphy, &c.

[4] On Saturday, May 15, I dined with him at Dr. Brocklesby's, where were Colonel Vallancy, Mr. Murphy, and that ever-cheerful companion Mr. Devaynes, apothecary to his Majesty. Of these days, and others on which I saw him, I have no memorials, except the general recollection of his being able and animated in conversation, and appearing to relish society as much as the youngest man. I find only these three small particulars: — When a person was mentioned, who said, “I have lived fifty-one years in this world, without having had ten minutes of uneasiness”; he exclaimed, “The man who says so, lies: he attempts to impose on human credulity.” The Bishop of Exeter in vain observed, that men were very different. His Lordship's manner was not impressive; and I learnt afterwards, that Johnson did not find out that the person who talked to him was a Prelate; if he had, I doubt not that he would have treated him with more respect; for once talking of George Psalmanazar, whom he reverenced for his piety, he said, “I should as soon think of contradicting a BISHOP.” One of the company provoked him greatly by doing what he could least of all bear, which was quoting something of his own writing, against what he then maintained. “What, Sir, (cried the gentleman,) do you say to

'The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by?'”

[5] Johnson finding himself thus presented as giving an instance of a man who had lived without uneasiness, was much offended, for he looked upon such a quotation as unfair, his anger burst out in an unjustifiable retort, insinuating that the gentleman's remark was a sally of ebriety; “Sir, there is one passion I would advise you to command: when you have drunk out that glass, don't drink another.” Here was exemplified what Goldsmith said of him, with the aid of a very witty image from one of Cibber's Comedies: “There is no arguing with Johnson: for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.”

[6] Another was this: when a gentleman of eminence in the literary world was violently censured for attacking people by anonymous paragraphs in newspapers; he, from the spirit of contradiction as I thought, took up his defence and said, “Come, come, this is not so terrible a crime; he means only to vex them a little. I do not say that I should do it; but there is a great difference between him and me; what is fit for Hephæstion is not fit for Alexander.” — Another, when I told him that a young and handsome Countess had said to me, “I should think that to be praised by Dr. Johnson would make one a fool all one's life”; and that I answered, “Madam, I shall make him a fool to-day, by repeating this to him”; he said, “I am too old to be made a fool; but if you say I am made a fool I shall not deny it. I am much pleased with a compliment, especially from a pretty woman.”

[7] On the evening of Saturday, May 15, he was in fine spirits at our Essex-Head Club. He told us, “I dined yesterday at Mrs. Garrick's with Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney. Three such women are not to be found: I know not where I could find a fourth, except Mrs. Lennox, who is superiour to them all.” Boswell. “What! had you them all to yourself, Sir?” Johnson. “I had them all, as much as they were had; but it might have been better had there been more company there.” Boswell. “Might not Mrs. Montagu have been a fourth?” Johnson. “Sir, Mrs. Montagu does not make a trade of her wit; but Mrs. Montagu is a very extraordinary woman: she has a constant stream of conversation, and it is always impregnated; it has always meaning.” Boswell. “Mr. Burke has a constant stream of conversation.” Johnson. “Yes, Sir; if a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke under a shed, to shun a shower, he would say — 'this is an extraordinary man.' If Burke should go into a stable to see his horse drest, the ostler would say — 'we have had an extraordinary man here.'” Boswell. “Foote was a man who never failed in conversation. If he had gone into a stable—”; Johnson. “Sir, if he had gone into the stable, the ostler would have said, here has been a comical fellow: but he would not have respected him.” Boswell. “And, Sir, the ostler would have answered him, would have given him as good as he brought, as the common saying is.” Johnson. “Yes, Sir; and Foote would have answered the ostler. — When Burke does not descend to be merry, his conversation is very superiour indeed. There is no proportion between the powers which he shews in serious talk and in jocularity. When he lets himself down to that, he is in the kennel.” I have in another place opposed, and I hope with success, Dr. Johnson's very singular and erroneous notion as to Mr. Burke's pleasantry. Mr. Windham now said low to me, that be differed from our great friend in this observation; for that Mr. Burke was often very happy in his merriment. It would not have been right for either of us to have contradicted Johnson at this time, in a Society all of whom did not know and value Mr. Burke as much as we did. It might have occasioned something more rough, and at any rate would probably have checked the flow of Johnson's good-humour. He called to us with a sudden air of exultation, as the thought started into his mind, “O! gentlemen, I must tell you a very great thing. The Empress of Russia has ordered the 'Rambler' to be translated into the Russian language: so I shall be read on the banks of the Wolga. Horace boasts that his fame would extend as far as the banks of the Rhone; now the Wolga is farther from me than the Rhone was from Horace.” Boswell. “You must certainly be pleased with this, Sir.” Johnson. “I am pleased, Sir, to be sure. A man is pleased to find he has succeeded in that which he has endeavoured to do.”

[8] One of the company mentioned his having seen a noble person driving in his carriage, and looking exceedingly well, notwithstanding his great age. Johnson. “Ah, Sir; that is nothing. Bacon observes, that a stout healthy old man is like a tower undermined.”

[9] On Sunday, May 16, I found him alone; he talked of Mrs. Thrale with much concern, saying, “Sir, she has done every thing wrong since Thrale's bridle was off her neck”; and was proceeding to mention some circumstances which have since been the subject of public discussion, when he was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury.

[10] Dr. Douglas, upon this occasion, refuted a mistaken notion which is very common in Scotland, that the ecclesiastical discipline of the Church of England, though duly enforced, is insufficient to preserve the morals of the clergy, inasmuch as all delinquents may be screened by appealing to the Convocation, which being never authorized by the King to sit for the dispatch of business, the appeal never can be heard. Dr. Douglas observed, that this was founded upon ignorance; for that the Bishops have sufficient power to maintain discipline, and that the sitting of the Convocation was wholly immaterial in this respect, it being not a Court of judicature, but like a parliament, to make canons and regulations as times may require.

[11] Johnson, talking of the fear of death, said, “Some people are not afraid, because they look upon salvation as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure that they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid.”

[12] In one of his little manuscript diaries, about this time, I find a short notice, which marks his amiable disposition more certainly than a thousand studied declarations. — “Afternoon spent cheerfully and elegantly, I hope without offence to God or man; though in no holy duty, yet in the general exercise and cultivation of benevolence.”

[13] On Monday, May 17, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were Colonel Vallancy, the Reverend Dr. Gibbons, and Mr. Capel Lofft, who, though a most zealous Whig, has a mind so full of learning and knowledge, and so much exercised in various departments, and withal so much liberality, that the stupendous powers of the literary Goliath, though they did not frighten this little David of popular spirit, could not but excite his admiration. There was also Mr. Braithwaite of the Post-office, that amiable and friendly man, who, with modest and unassuming manners, has associated with many of the wits of the age. Johnson was very quiescent to-day. Perhaps too I was indolent. I find nothing more of him in my notes, but that when I mentioned that I had seen in the King's library sixty-three editions of my favourite Thomas a Kempis, — amongst which it was in eight languages, Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Arabick, and Armenian, — he said, he thought it unnecessary to collect many editions of a book, which were all the same, except as to the paper and print; he would have the original and all the translations, and all the editions which had any variations in the text. He approved of the famous collection of editions of Horace by Douglas, mentioned by Pope, who is said to have had a closet filled with them; and he added, “every man should try to collect one book in that manner, and present it to a publick library.”

[14] On Tuesday, May 18, I saw him for a short time in the morning. I told him that the mob had called out, as the King passed “No Fox — No Fox,” which I did not like. He said, “They were right, Sir.” I said, I thought not; for it seemed to be making Mr. Fox the King's competitor. There being no audience, so that there could be no triumph in a victory, he fairly agreed with me. I said it might do very well, if explained thus: “Let us have no Fox”; understanding it as a prayer to his Majesty not to appoint that gentleman minister.

[15] On Wednesday, May 19, I sat a part of the evening with him, by ourselves. I observed, that the death of our friends might be a consolation against the fear of our own dissolution, because we might have more friends in the other world than in this. He perhaps felt this a reflection upon his apprehension as to death; and said, with heat, “How can a man know where his departed friends are, or whether they will be his friends in the other world? How many friendships have you known formed upon principles of virtue? Most friendships are formed by caprice or by chance, mere confederacies in vice or leagues in folly.”

[16] We talked of our worthy friend Mr. Langton. He said, “I know not who will go to Heaven if Langton does not. Sir, I could almost say, Sit anima mea cum Langtono.” I mentioned a very eminent friend as a virtuous man. Johnson. “Yes, Sir; but —— has not the evangelical virtue of Langton. ———, I am afraid, would not scruple to pick up a wench.”

[17] He however charged Mr. Langton with what he thought want of judgement upon an interesting occasion. “When I was ill, (said he) I desired he would tell me sincerely in what he thought my life was faulty. Sir, he brought me a sheet of paper, on which he had written down several texts of Scripture, recommending Christian charity. And when I questioned him what occasion I had given for such an animadversion, all that he could say amounted to this, — that I sometimes contradicted people in conversation. Now what harm does it do to any man to be contradicted?” Boswell. “I suppose he meant the manner of doing it; roughly, — and harshly.” Johnson. “And who is the worse for that?” Boswell. “It hurts people of weaker nerves.” Johnson. “I know no such weak-nerved people.” Mr. Burke, to whom I related this conference, said, “It is well, if when a man comes to die, he has nothing heavier upon his conscience than having been a little rough in conversation.”

[18] Johnson, at the time when the paper was presented to him, though at first pleased with the attention of his friend, whom he thanked in an earnest manner, soon exclaimed in a loud and angry tone, “What is your drift, Sir?” Sir Joshua Reynolds pleasantly observed, that it was a scene for a comedy, to see a penitent get into a violent passion and belabour his confessor.

[19] I have preserved no more of his conversation at the times when I saw him during the rest of this month, till Sunday, the 30th of May, when I met him in the evening at Mr. Hoole's, where there was a large company both of ladies and gentlemen. Sir James Johnston happened to say that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. Johnson. “Nay, Sir, argument is argument. You cannot help paying regard to their arguments, if they are good. If it were testimony, you might disregard it, if you knew that it was purchased. There is a beautiful image in Bacon, upon this subject: testimony is like an arrow shot from a long bow; the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot by a child.”

[20] He had dined that day at Mr. Hoole's, and Miss Helen Maria Williams being expected in the evening, Mr. Hoole put into his hands her beautiful “Ode on the Peace”: Johnson read it over, and when this elegant, and accomplished young lady was presented to him, he took her by the hand in the most courteous manner, and repeated the finest stanza of her poem; this was the most delicate and pleasing compliment he could pay. Her respectable friend, Dr. Kippis, from whom I had this anecdote, was standing by, and was not a little gratified.

[21] Miss Williams told me, that the only other time she was fortunate enough to be in Dr. Johnson's company, he asked her to sit down by him, which she did, and upon her enquiring how he was, he answered, “I am very ill indeed, Madam. I am very ill even when you are near me; what should I be were you at a distance?”

[22] He had now a great desire to go to Oxford, as his first jaunt after his illness; we talked of it for some days, and I had promised to accompany him. He was impatient and fretful to-night, because I did not at once agree to go with him on Thursday. When I considered how ill he had been, and what allowance should be made for the influence of sickness upon his temper, I resolved to indulge him, though with some inconvenience to myself, as I wished to attend the musical meeting in honour of Handel, in Westminster-Abbey, on the following Saturday.

[23] In the midst of his own diseases and pains, he was ever compassionate to the distress of others, and actively earnest in procuring them aid, as appears from a note to Sir Joshua Reynolds, of June, in these words: “I am ashamed to ask for some relief for a poor man, to whom, I hope, I have given what I can be expected to spare. The man importunes me, and the blow goes round. I am going to try another air on Thursday.”

[24] On Thursday, June 3, the Oxford post-coach took us up in the morning at Bolt-court. The other two passengers were Mrs. Beresford and her daughter, two very agreeable ladies from America; they were going to Worcestershire, where they then resided. Frank had been sent by his master the day before to take places for us; and I found from the way-bill that Dr. Johnson had made our names be put down. Mrs. Beresford, who had read it, whispered me, “Is this the great Dr. Johnson?” I told her it was; so she was then prepared to listen. As she soon happened to mention in a voice so low that Johnson did not hear it, that her husband had been a member of the American Congress, I cautioned her to beware of introducing that subject, as she must know how very violent Johnson was against the people of that country. He talked a great deal. But I am sorry I have preserved little of the conversation. Miss Beresford was so much charmed, that she said to me aside, “How he does talk! Every sentence is an essay.” She amused herself in the coach with knotting; he would scarcely allow this species of employment any merit. “Next to mere idleness (said he) I think knotting is to be reckoned in the scale of insignificance; though I once attempted to learn knotting. Dempster's sister (looking to me) endeavoured to teach me it; but I made no progress.”

[25] I was surprised at his talking without reserve in the publick post-coach of the state of his affairs; “I have (said he) about the world I think above a thousand pounds, which I intend shall afford Frank an annuity of seventy pounds a-year.” Indeed his openness with people at a first interview was remarkable. He said once to Mr. Langton, “I think I am like Squire Richard in 'The Journey to London,' 'I'm never strange in a strange place.'” He was truly social. He strongly censured what is much too common in England among persons of condition, — maintaining an absolute silence, when unknown to each other; as for instance, when occasionally brought together in a room before the master or mistress of the house has appeared. “Sir, that is being so uncivilised as not to understand the common rights of humanity.”

[26] At the inn where we stopped he was exceedingly dissatisfied with some roast mutton which he had for dinner. The ladies, I saw, wondered to see the great philosopher, whose wisdom and wit they had been admiring all the way, get into ill humour from such a cause. He scolded the waiter, saying, “It is as bad as bad can be: it is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest.”

[27] He bore the journey very well, and seemed to feel himself elevated as he approached Oxford, that magnificent and venerable seat of Learning, Orthodoxy, and Toryism. Frank came in the heavy coach, in readiness to attend him; and we were received with the most polite hospitality at the house of his old friend Dr. ADAMS, Master of Pembroke College, who had given us a kind invitation. Before we were set down, I communicated to Johnson, my having engaged to return to London directly, for the reason I have mentioned, but that I would hasten back to him again. He was pleased that I had made this journey merely to keep him company. He was easy and placid, with Dr. ADAMS, Mrs. and Miss ADAMS, and Mrs. Kennicot, widow of the learned Hebraean, who was here on a visit. He soon dispatched the enquiries which were made about his illness and recovery, by a short and distinct narrative; and then assuming a gay air, repeated from Swift,

“Nor think on our approaching ills,
And talk of spectacles and pills.”

[28] Dr. Newman, the Bishop of Bristol, having been mentioned, Johnson, recollecting the manner in which he had been censured by that Prelate, Prelate, thus retaliated: — “Tom knew he should be dead before what he has said of me would appear. He durst not have printed it while he was alive.” DR. ADAMS. “I believe his 'Dissertations on the Prophecies' is his great work.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, it is Tom's great work; but how far it is great, or how much of it is Tom's, are other questions. I fancy a considerable part of it was borrowed.” DR. ADAMS. “He was a very successful man.” Johnson. “I don't think so, Sir. — He did not get very high. He was late in getting what he did get; and he did not get it by the best means. I believe he was a gross flatterer.”

[29] I fulfilled my intention by going to London, and returned to Oxford on Wednesday, the 9th of June, when I was happy to find myself again in the same agreeable circle at Pembroke College, with the comfortable prospect of making some stay. Johnson welcomed my return with more than ordinary glee.

[30] He talked with great regard of the Honourable Archibald Campbell, whose character he had given at the Duke of Argyll's table, when we were at Inverary; and at this time wrote out for me, in his own hand, a fuller amount of that learned and venerable writer, which I have published in its proper place. Johnson made a remark this evening which struck me a good deal. “I never (said he) knew a Nonjuror who could reason.” Surely he did not mean to deny that faculty to many of their writers; to Hickes, Brett, and other eminent divines of that persuasion; and did not recollect that the seven Bishops, so justly celebrated for their magnanimous resistance of arbitrary power, were yet Nonjurors to the new Government. The nonjuring clergy of Scotland, indeed, who, excepting a few, have lately, by a sudden stroke, cut off all ties of allegiance to the house of Stuart, and resolved to pray for our present lawful Sovereign by name, may be thought to have confirmed this remark; as it may be said, that the divine indefeasible hereditary right which they professed to believe, if ever true, must be equally true still. Many of my readers will be surprized when I mention, that Johnson assured me he had never in his life been in a nonjuring meetinghouse.

[31] Next morning at breakfast, he pointed out a passage in Savage's “Wanderer,” saying “These are fine verses.” — “If (said he) I had written with hostility of Warburton in my Shakspeare, I should have quoted this couplet:

'Here Learning, blinded first, and then beguil'd,
Looks dark as Ignorance, as Frenzy wild.'
You see they'd have fitted him to a T,” (smiling.) DR. ADAMS. “But you did not write against Warburton.” Johnson. “No, Sir, I treated him with great respect both in my preface and in my Notes.”

[32] Mrs. Kennicot spoke of her brother, the Reverend Mr. Chamberlayne, who had given up great prospects in the Church of England on his conversion to the Roman Catholick faith. Johnson, who warmly admired every man who acted from a conscientious regard to principle, erroneous or not, exclaimed fervently, “God bless him.”

[33] Mrs. Kennicot, in confirmation of Dr. Johnson's opinion, that the present was not worse than former ages, mentioned that her brother assured her, there was now less infidelity on the Continent than there had been; Voltaire and Rousseau were less read. I asserted, from good authority, that Hume's infidelity was certainly less read. Johnson. “All infidel writers drop into oblivion, when personal connections and the floridness of novelty are gone; though now and then a foolish fellow, who thinks he can be witty upon them, may bring them again into notice. There will sometimes start up a College joker, who does not consider that what is a joke in a College will not do in the world. To such defenders of Religion I would apply a stanza of a poem which I remember to have seen in some old collection:

'Henceforth be quiet and agree,
   Each kiss his empty brother;
Religion scorns a foe like thee,
   But dreads a friend like t'other.'
The point is well, though the expression is not correct; one, not thee, should be opposed to t'other.”

[34] On the Roman Catholick religion he said, “If you join the Papists externally, they will not interrogate you strictly as to your belief in their tenets. No reasoning Papist believes every article of their faith. There is one side on which a good man might be persuaded to embrace it. A good man of a timorous disposition, in great doubt of his acceptance with God, and pretty credulous may be glad to be of a church where there are so many helps to get to heaven. I would be a Papist if I could. I have fear enough; but an obstinate rationality prevents me. I shall never be a Papist, unless on the near approach of death, of which I have a very great terrour. I wonder that women are not all Papists.” Boswell. “They are not more afraid of death than men are.” Johnson. “Because they are less wicked.” DR. ADAMS. “They are more pious.” Johnson. “No, hang 'em, they are not more pious. A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He'll beat you all at piety.”

[35] He argued in defence of some of the peculiar tenets of the Church of Rome. As to the giving the bread only to the laity, he said, “They may think, that in what is merely ritual, deviations from the primitive mode may be admitted on the ground of convenience; and I think they are as well warranted to make this alteration, as we are to substitute sprinkling in the room of the ancient baptism. As to the invocation of saints, he said, “Though I do not think it authorised, it appears to me, that 'the communion of saints,' in the Creed means the communion with the saints in Heaven, as connected with 'The holy Catholick church.'” He admitted the influence of evil spirits upon our minds, and said, “Nobody who believes the New Testament can deny it.”

[36] I brought a volume of Dr. Hurd, the Bishop of Worcester's Sermons, and read to the company some passages from one of them, upon this text, "Resist the Devil, and he will fly from you.” James iv. 7. I was happy to produce so judicious and elegant a supporter of a doctrine, which, I knew not why, should, in this world of imperfect knowledge, and, therefore, of wonder and mystery in a thousand instances, be contested by some with an unthinking assurance and flippancy.

[37] After dinner, when one of us talked of there being a great enmity between Whig and Tory; — Johnson. “Why, not so much, I think, unless when they come into competition with each other. There is none when they are only common acquaintance, none when they are of different sexes. A Tory will marry into a Whig family, and a Whig into a Tory family, without any reluctance. But, indeed, in a matter of much more concern than political tenets, and that is religion, men and woman do not concern themselves much about difference of opinion; and ladies set no value on the moral character of men who pay their addresses to them; the greatest prodigate will be as well received as the man of the greatest virtue, and this by a very good woman, by a woman who says her prayers three times a day.” Our ladies endeavoured to defend their sex from this charge; but he roared them down! “No, no, a lady will take Jonathan Wild as readily as St. Austin, if he has threepence more; and, what is worse, her parents will give her to him. Women have a perpetual envy of our vices; they are less vicious than we, not from choice, but because we restrict them; they are the slaves of order and fashion; their virtue is of more consequence to us than our own, so far as concerns this world.”

[38] Miss ADAMS mentioned a gentleman of licentious character, and said, “Suppose I had a mind to marry that gentleman, would my parents consent?” Johnson. “Yes, they'd consent, and you'd go. You'd go, though they did not consent.” MISS ADAMS. “Perhaps their opposing might make me go.” Johnson. “O, very well; you'd take one whom you think a bad man, to have the pleasure of vexing your parents. You put me in mind of Dr. Barrowby, the physician, who was very fond of swine's flesh. One day, when he was eating it, he said, 'I wish I was a Jew.' — 'Why so? (said somebody,) the Jews are not allowed to eat your favourite meat.' — 'Because (said he,) I should then have the gust of eating it, with the pleasure of sinning.'” — Johnson then proceeded in his declamation.

[39] Miss ADAMS soon afterwards made an observation that I do not recollect, which pleased him much; he said with a good-humoured smile, “That there should be so much excellence united with so much depravity, is strange.”

[40] Indeed, this lady's good qualities, merit, and accomplishments, and her constant attention to Dr. Johnson, were not lost upon him. She happened to tell him that a little coffee-pot, in which she had made him coffee, was the only thing she could call her own. He turned to her with a complacent gallantry, “Don't say so, my dear; I hope you don't reckon my heart as nothing.”

[41] I asked him if it was true as reported, that he had said lately, “I am for the King against Fox; but I am for Fox against Pitt.” Johnson. “Yes, Sir; the King is my master; but I do not know Pitt; and Fox is my friend.”

[42] “Fox, (added he,) is a most extraordinary man; here is a man (describing him in strong terms of objection in some respects according as he apprehended, but which exalted his abilities the more,) who has divided the Kingdom with Cæsar; so that it was a doubt whether the nation should be ruled by the sceptre of George the Third, or the tongue of Fox.”

[43] Dr. Wall, physician at Oxford, drank tea with us. Johnson had in general a peculiar pleasure in the company of physicians, which was certainly not abated by the conversation of this learned, ingenious, and pleasing gentleman. Johnson said, “It is wonderful how little good Radcliffe's travelling fellowships have done. I know nothing that has been imported by them; yet many additions to our medical knowledge might be got in foreign countries. Inoculation, for instance, has saved more lives than war destroys: and the cures performed by the Peruvian-bark are innumerable. But it is in vain to send our travelling physicians to France, and Italy, and Germany, for all that is known there is known here: I'd send them out of Christendom; I'd send them among barbarous nations.”

[44] On Friday, June 11, we talked at breakfast, of forms of prayer. Johnson. “I know of no good prayers but those in the 'Book of Common Prayer.'” DR. ADAMS, (in a very earnest manner,) “I wish, Sir, you would compose some family prayers.” Johnson. “I will not compose prayers for you, Sir, because you can do it for yourself. But I have thought of getting together all books of prayers which I could, selecting those which should appear to me the best, putting out some, inserting others, adding some prayers of my own, and prefixing a discourse on prayer.” We all now gathered about him, and two or three of us at a time joined in pressing him to execute this plan. He seemed to be a little displeased at the manner of our importunity, and in great agitation called out, “Do not talk thus of what is so awful. I know not what time God will allow me in this world. There are many things which I wish to do.” Some of us persisted, and Dr. ADAMS said, “I never was more serious about anything in my life.” Johnson. “Let me alone, let me alone; I am overpowered.” And then he put his hands before his face, and reclined for some time upon the table.

[45] I mentioned Jeremy Taylor's using, in his forms of prayer, “I am the chief of sinners,” and other such self-condemning expressions. “Now, (said I) this cannot be said with truth by every man, and therefore is improper for a general printed form. I myself cannot say that I am the worst of men; I will not say so.” Johnson. “A man may know, that physically, that is, in the real state of things, he is not the worst man; but that morally he may be so. Law observes, 'that every man knows something worse of himself, than he is sure of in others.' You may not have committed such crimes as some men have done; but you do not know against what degree of light they have sinned. Besides, Sir, 'the chief of sinners' is a mode of expression for 'I am a great sinner.' So St. Paul, speaking of our SAVIOUR'S having died to save sinners, says, 'of whom I am the chief;' yet he certainly did not think himself so bad as Judas Iscariot.” Boswell. “But, Sir, Taylor means it literally, for he founds a conceit upon it. When praying for the conversion of sinners, and of himself in particular, he says, 'Lord, thou wilt not leave thy chief work undone.'” Johnson. “I do not approve of figurative expressions in addressing the Supreme Being; and I never use them. Taylor gives a very good advice: 'Never lie in your prayers; never confess more than you really believe; never promise more than you mean to perform.'” I recollected this precept in his “Golden Grove”; but his example for prayer contradicts his precept.

[46] Dr. Johnson and I went in Dr. ADAMS's coach to dine with Mr. Nowell, Principal of St. Mary Hall, at his beautiful villa at Iffley, on the banks of the Isis, about two miles from Oxford. While we were upon the road, I had the resolution to ask Johnson whether he thought that the roughness of his manner had been an advantage or not, and if he would not have done more good if he had been more gentle. I proceeded to answer myself thus: “Perhaps it has been of advantage, as it has given weight to what you said: you could not, perhaps, have talked with such authority without it.” Johnson. “No, Sir; I have done more good as I am. Obscenity and Impiety have always been repressed in my company.” Boswell. “True, Sir; and that is more than can be said of every Bishop. Greater liberties have been taken in the presence of a Bishop, though a very good man, from his being milder, and therefore not commanding such awe. Yet, Sir, many people who might have been benefited by your conversation, have been frightened away. A worthy friend of ours has told me, that he has often been afraid to talk to you.” Johnson. “Sir, he need not have been afraid, if he had any thing rational to say. If he had not, it was better he did not talk.”

[47] Dr. Nowell is celebrated for having preached a sermon before the House of Commons, on the 30th of January, 1772, full of high Tory sentiments, for which he was thanked as usual, and printed it at their request; but, in the midst of that turbulence and faction which disgraced a part of the present reign, the thanks were afterwards ordered to be expunged. This strange conduct sufficiently exposes itself; and Dr. Nowell will ever have the honour which is due to a lofty friend of our monarchical constitution. Dr. Johnson said to me, “Sir, the Court will be very much to blame, if he is not promoted.” I told this to Dr. Nowell; and asserting my humbler, though not less zealous exertions in the same cause, I suggested, that whatever return we might receive, we should still have the consolation of being like Butler's steady and generous Royalist,

“True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shone upon.”
We were well entertained and very happy at Dr. Nowell's, where was a very agreeable company; and we drank “Church and King” after dinner, with true Tory cordiality.

We talked of a certain clergyman of extraordinary character, who, by exerting his talents in writing on temporary topicks, and displaying uncommon intrepidity, had raised himself to affluence. I maintained that we ought not to be indignant at his success; for merit of every sort was entitled to reward. Johnson. “Sir, I will not allow this man to have merit. No, Sir; what he has is rather the contrary; I will, indeed, allow him courage, and on this account we so far give him credit. We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on the highway, than for a fellow who jumps out of a ditch, and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice.”

I censured the coarse invectives which were become fashionable in the House of Commons, and said, that if members of parliament must attack each other personally in the heat of debate, it should be done more genteelly. Johnson. “No, Sir; that would be much worse. Abuse is not so dangerous when there is no vehicle of wit or delicacy, no subtle conveyance. The difference between coarse and refined abuse is as the difference between being bruised by a club, and wounded by a poisoned arrow.” — I have since observed his position elegantly expressed by Dr. Young:
“As the soft plume gives swiftness to the dart,
Good breeding sends the satire to the heart.”
On Saturday, June 12, there drank tea with us at Dr. ADAMS's, Mr. John Henderson, student of Pembroke-College, celebrated for his wonderful acquirements in Alchymy, Judicial Astrology, and other abstruse and curious learning; and the Reverend Herbert Croft, who, I am afraid, was somewhat mortified by Dr. Johnson's not being highly pleased with some “Family Discourses,” which he had printed; they were in too familiar a style to be approved of by so manly a mind. I have no note of this evening's conversation, except a single fragment. When I mentioned Thomas Lord Lyttelton's vision, the prediction of the time of his death, and its exact fulfillment; — Johnson. “It is the most extraordinary thing that has happened in my day. I heard it with my own ears from his uncle, Lord Westcote. I am so glad to have every evidence of the spiritual world, that I am willing to believe it.” DR. ADAMS. “You have evidence enough; good evidence, which needs not such support.” Johnson. “I like to have more.”

Mr. Henderson, with whom I had sauntered in the venerable walks of Merton-College, and found him a very learned and pious man, supped with us. Dr. Johnson surprised him not a little, by acknowledging with a look of horrour, that he was much oppressed by the fear of death. The amiable Dr. ADAMS suggested that God was infinitely good. Johnson. “That he is infinitely good, as far as the perfection of his nature will allow, I certainly believe; but it is necessary for good upon the whole, that individuals should be punished. As to an individual, therefore, he is not infinitely good; and as I cannot be sure that I have fulfilled the conditions on which salvation is granted, I am afraid I may be one of those who shall be damned.” (looking dismally.) DR. ADAMS. “What do you mean by damned!” Johnson. (passionately and loudly) “Sent to Hell, Sir, and punished everlastingly.” DR. ADAMS. “I don't believe that doctrine.” Johnson. “Hold, Sir, do you believe that some will be punished at all?” DR. ADAMS. “Being excluded from Heaven will be a punishment: yet there may be no great positive suffering.” Johnson. “Well, Sir; but, if you admit any degree of punishment, there is an end of your argument for infinite goodness simply considered; for, infinite goodness would inflict no punishment whatever. There is no infinite goodness physically considered; morally there is.” Boswell. “But may not a man attain to such a degree of hope as not to be uneasy from the fear of death?” Johnson. “A man may have such a degree of hope as to keep him quiet. You see I am not quiet, from the vehemency with which I talk; but I do not despair.” MR. ADAMS. “You seem, Sir, to forget the merits of our Redeemer.” Johnson. “Madam, I do not forget the merits of my Redeemer; but my Redeemer has said that he will set some on his right hand and some on his left.” — He was in gloomy agitation, and said, “I'll have no more on't.” — If what has now been stated should be urged by the enemies of Christianity, as if its influence on the mind were not benignant, let it be remembered, that Johnson's temperament was melancholy, of which such direful apprehensions of futurity are often a common effect. We shall presently see, that when he approached nearer to his awful change, his mind became tranquil, and he exhibited as much fortitude as becomes a thinking man in that situation.

From the subject of death we passed to discourse of life whether it was upon the whole more happy or miserable. Johnson was decidedly for the balance of misery: in confirmation of which I maintained, that no man would choose to lead over again the life which he had experienced. Johnson acceded to that opinion in the strongest terms. This is an enquiry often made; and its being a subject of disquisition is a proof that much misery presses upon human feelings; for those who are conscious of a felicity of existence, would never hesitate to accept of a repetition of it. I have met with very few who would. I have heard Mr. Burke make use of a very ingenious and plausible argument on this subject; “Every man (said he,) would lead his life over again; for, every man is willing to go on and take an addition to his life, which, as he grows older, he has no reason to think will be better, or even so good as what has preceded.” I imagine, however, the truth is, that there is a deceitful hope that the next part of life will be free from the pains, and anxieties, and sorrows, which we have already felt. We are for wise purposes “Condemn'd to Hope's delusive mine,” as Johnson finely says; and I may also quote the celebrated lines of Dryden, equally philosophical and poetical:
“When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat,
Yet fool'd with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay;
To-morrow's falser than the former day;
Lies worse; and while it says we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.
Strange cozenage! none would live past years again;
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And from the dregs of life think to receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.”
It was observed to Dr. Johnson, that it seemed strange that he, who has so often delighted his company by his lively and brilliant conversation, should say he was miserable. Johnson. “Alas! it is all outside; I may be cracking my joke, and cursing the sun. Sun, how I hate thy beams!” I knew not well what to think of this declaration; whether to hold it as a genuine picture of his mind, or as the effect of his persuading himself contrary to fact, that the position which he had assumed as to human unhappiness, was true. We may apply to him a sentence in Mr. Greville's “Maxims, Characters, and Reflections”; a book which is entitled to much more praise than it has received: “ARISTARCHUS is charming: how full of knowledge, of sense, of sentiment. You get him with difficulty to your supper; and after having delighted every body and himself for a few hours, he is obliged to return home: — he is finishing his treatise, to prove that unhappiness is the portion of man.”

On Sunday, June 13, our philosopher was calm at breakfast. There was something exceedingly pleasing in our leading a College life, without restraint, and with superiour elegance, in consequence of our living in the Master's House, and having the company of ladies. Mrs. Kennicot related, in his presence, a lively saying of Dr. Johnson's to Miss Hannah More, who had expressed a wonder that the poet who had written “Paradise Lost,” should write such poor Sonnets: — “Milton, Madam, was a genius that could cut a Colossus from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones.”

We talked of the casuistical question, “Whether it was allowable at any time to depart from Truth?Johnson. “The general rule is, that Truth should never be violated, because it is of the utmost importance to the comfort of life, that we should have a full security by mutual faith; and occasional inconveniences should be willingly suffered, that we may preserve it. There must, however, be some exceptions. If, for instance, a murderer should ask you which way a man is gone, you may tell him what is not true, because you are under a previous obligation not to betray a man to a murderer.” Boswell. “Supposing the person who wrote Junius were asked whether he was the authour, might he deny it?” Johnson. “I don't know what to say to this. If you were sure that he wrote Junius, would you, if he denied it, think as well of him afterwards? Yet it may be urged, that what a man has no right to ask, that you may refuse to communicate; and there is no other effectual mode of preserving a secret and an important secret, the discovery of which may be very hurtful to you, but a flat denial; for if you are silent, or hesitate, or evade, it will be held equivalent to a confession. But stay, Sir, here is another case. Supposing the authour had told me confidentially that he had written Junius, and I were asked if he had, I should hold myself at liberty to deny it, as being under a previous promise, express or implied, to conceal it. Now what I ought to do for the authour, may I not do for myself? But I deny the lawfulness of telling a lie to a sick man, for fear of alarming him. You have no business with consequences; you are to tell the truth. Besides, you are not sure, what effect your telling him he is in danger may have. It may bring his distemper to a crisis, and that may cure him. Of all lying, I have the greatest abhorrence of this, because I believe it has been frequently practised on myself.”

I cannot help thinking that there is much weight in the opinion of those who have held, that truth, as an eternal and immutable principle, ought, upon no account whatever, to be violated, from supposed previous or superiour obligations, of which every man being to judge for himself, there is great danger that we too often, from partial motives, persuade ourselves that they exist; and probably, whatever extraordinary instances may sometimes occur, where some evil may be prevented by violating this noble principle, it would be found that human happiness would, upon the whole, be more perfect, were Truth universally preserved.

In the notes to the “Dunciad,” we find the following verses, addressed to Pope:
“While malice, Pope, denies thy page
   Its own celestial fire;
While criticks, and while bards in rage,
   Admiring, won't admire:

While wayward pens thy worth assail,
   And envious tongues decry;
These times, though many a friend bewail
   These times bewail not I.

But when the world's loud praise is thine,
   And spleen no more shall blame:
When with thy Homer thou shalt shine
   In one establish'd fame!

When none shall rail, and every lay
   Devote a wreath to thee;
That day (for come it will) that day
   Shall I lament to see.”
It is surely not a little remarkable, that they should appear without a name. Miss Seward, knowing Dr. Johnson's almost universal and minute literary information, signified a desire that I should ask him who was the authour. He was prompt with his answer: — “Why, Sir, they were written by one Lewis, who was either under-master or an usher of Westminster-school, and published a Miscellany, in which “Grongar Hill” first came out.” Johnson praised them highly, and repeated them with a noble animation. In the twelfth line, instead of “one establish'd fame,” he repeated “one unclouded fame,” which he thought was the reading in former editions: but I believe was a flash of his own genius. It is much more poetical than the other.

On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, 15, Dr. Johnson and I dined on one of them, I forget which, with Mr. Mickle, translator of the “Lusiad,” at Wheatley, a very pretty country place a few miles from Oxford; and on the other with Dr. Wetherell, Master of University-College. From Dr. Wetherell's he went to visit Mr. Sackville Parker, the bookseller; and when he returned to us, gave the following account of his visit, saying, “I have been to see my old friend, Sack. Parker; I find he has married his maid; he has done right. She had lived with him many years in great confidence, and they had mingled minds; I do not think he could have found any wife that would have made him so happy. The woman was very attentive and civil to me; she pressed me to fix a day for dining with them, and to say what I liked, and she would be sure to get it for me. Poor Sack! He is very ill, indeed. We parted as never to meet again. It has quite broke me down.” This pathetick narrative was strangely diversified with the grave and earnest defence of a man's having married his maid. I could not but feel it as in some degree ludicrous.

In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. ADAMS's, we talked of a printed letter from the reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. Johnson. “This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of 'Voyages to the South Sea,' which were just come out) who will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.” Boswell. “I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.” Johnson “Don't cant in defence of Savages.” Boswell. “They have the art of navigation.” Johnson. “A dog or a cat can swim.” Boswell. “They carve very ingeniously.” Johnson. “A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.” I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.