« ElőzőTovább »
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
on the moral character of men who pay their addresses to them: the greatest profligate 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.”
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. “Oh, 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.
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.” .
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 coffeepot, 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."
Dr. Barrowby died in 1758, the senior member of the college of physicians.-Croker.
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."
“Fox," added be, “is a most extraordinary man: here is a man (describing him in strong terms of objection in soine 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."
Dr. Wall, physician at Oxford, drank tea with us. John. son 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."
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 the 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 any thing 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.
I mentioned Jeremy Taylor's using, in his forms of prayer, “I am the chief of sinners,” and other such self-condemn. ing 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.
Dr. Johnson and I went in Dr. Adams's coach to dine with Dr. Nowell, Principal of St. Mary Hall, at his 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."
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 cha
See vol. ii., p. 149, n. 1. Nowell died in 1801, aged seventy-three, Principal of St. Mary Hall, without obtaining the high preferment Johnson thought he deserved.—Editor.
? The Rev. Henry Bate, who, in 1784, took the name of Dudley, was
racter, who, by exerting his talents in writing on temporary topics, 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 and 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 Colcreated a baronet in 1815, and died in 1824, without issue. He became first known to the world for a rather unclerical exhibition of personal prowess in a Vauxhall squabble (see Lond. Mag. for 1773, p. 461); he was afterwards actively connected with the public press; and in consequence of something that appeared in the Morning Post, of which he was the proprietor, and was supposed to reflect on Lady Strathmore, he was involved in a duel (or pretended duel, Gent. Mag. 1810, p. 183, 1828, p. 496) with Mr. Robinson Stoney, who soon after married the lady, and took the name of Bowes. He afterwards quarrelled with his co-proprietors in the Post, one of whom, Joseph Richardson, he wounded in another duel, and set up the Morning Herald. He subsequently obtained considerable church preferment, became an active and respectable magistrate, and the latter portion of his life was amiable and decorous.-Croker.