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1783. smiteth thee on one cheek, offer him also the other."
JOHNSON. “ But stay, Sir; the text is meant only Ætat. 74.
to have the effect of moderating passion ; it is plain
Well, Sir, lend me a hundred pounds;' he'll find him as unwilling as any other man. No, Sir, a man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.? So in 1745, my friend, Tom Cumming the Quaker, said he would not fight, but he would drive an ammunition cart; and we know that the Quakers have sent flannel waistcoats to our soldiers, to enable them to fight better.” BOSWELL. “When a man is the aggressor, and by ill-usage forces on a duel in which
? I think it necessary to caution my readers against concluding that in this or any other conversation of Dr. Johnson, they have his serious and deliberate opinion on the subject of duelling. In my Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3 edit. p. 386, it appears that he made this frank confession : « Nobody at times, talks more laxly than I do;" and, ibid.
“ He fairly owned he could not explain the rationality of duelling." We may, therefore, infer, that he could not think that justifiable, which seems so inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel. At the same time it must be confessed, that from the prevalent notions of honour, a gentleman who receives a challenge is reduced to a dreadful alternative. A remarkable instance of this is furnished by a clause in the will of the late Colonel Thomas, of the Guards, written the night before he fell in a duel, September 3, 1783: " In the first place, I commit my soul to Almighty God, in hopes of his mercy and pardon for the irreligious step I now in compliance with the unwarrantable customs of this wicked world) put myself under the necessity of taking.
he is killed, have we not little ground to hope that 1783. he is gone to a state of happiness?" Johnson. “Sir, we are not to judge determinately of the state in which a man leaves this life. He may in a moment have repented effectually, and it is possible may have been accepted of God. There is in 'Camden's Remains,' an epitaplı upon a very wicked man, who was killed by a fall from his horse, in which he is supposed to say,
“ Between the stirrup and the ground,
“ I mercy ask'd, I BOSWELL. “ Is not the expression in the Burial-service, “in the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection; too strong to be used indiscriminately, and, indeed, sometimes when those over whose bodies it is said, have been notoriously profane ?" JOHNSON. “ It is sure and certain hope, Sir; not belief.” I did not insist further ; but cannot help thinking that less positive words would be more proper.
[In repeating this epitaph Johnson improved it. The original runs thus :
“ Betwixt the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I asked, mercy I found." M.] • Upon this objection the Reverend Mr. Ralph Churton, Fellow of Brazennose College, Oxford, has favoured me with the following satisfactory observation. “ The passage in the Burialservice, does not mean the resurrection of the person interred, 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 tliat the person departed doth not rest in Christ, which no one can be assured of, without VOL, IV.
Talking of a man who was grown very fat, so as to
be incommoded with corpulency; he said, “ He eats Ætat. 74.
too much, Sir.” Boswell. “ I don't know, Sir, you
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 despotick governour; 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 governour, whose power is checked, lets others plunder, that he himself may be allowed to plunder ; but if despotick, he sees that the more he lets others plunder, the less there will be immediate revelation from Heaven. In the first of these places also, "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.”
for himself, so he restrains them; and though he 1783. himself plunders, the country is a gainer, compared
Ætat. 74. 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. “Pray, Sir, by a sheet of review is it meant that it shall be all of the writer's own compo- / sition? or are extracts, made from the book reviewed, deducted." JOHNSON. “ No, Sir ; it is a sheet, , no matter of what." BosWELL. “I think that it 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 judgement with which extracts are inade. 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 authour whose work they are reviewing, which is surely the proper business of a literary journal, they produce some plausible and ingenious conceits
66 But we
1783. of their own, upon the topicks which have been
discussed. Ætat. 74.
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." to America." Boswell.
Boswell. « The Ameri. cans don't want oratory."
JOHNSON. can want Sheridan."
On Monday, April 29, I found him at home in the forenoon, and Mr. Seward with him. Horace haying been mentioned ;-Boswell. “ There is a great deal of thinking in his works. One finds there almost every thing but religion." SEWARD. 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.” Bos
“ 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)
a smile) “ I drank enough and swore enough to be sure.” SEWARD.