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Libelling the dead.
nice. Let him deny what is said, and let the matter have a fair chance by discussion. But, if a man could say nothing against a character but what he can prove, history could not be written; for a great deal is known of men of which proof cannot be brought. A minister may be notoriously known to take bribes, and yet you may not be able to prove it. Mr. Murray suggested, that the authour should be obliged to shew some sort of evidence, though he would not require a strict legal proof: but Johnson firmly and resolutely opposed any restraint whatever, as adverse to a free investigation of the characters of mankind'.
King's bench is to appreciate your cided, as the Court granted an arrest expressions !' Memoirs of the Reign chiefly on the informality of the of George II, iii. 153.
indictment. No man has a higher What Dr. Johnson has here said, reverence for the law of England is undoubtedly good sense ; yet I am than I have ; but, with all deference afraid that law, though defined by I cannot help thinking, that proseLord Coke the perfection of reason,' cution by indictment, if a defendant is not altogether with him ; for it is is never to be allowed to justify, held in the books, that an attack on must often be very oppressive, unless the reputation even of a dead man, Juries, whom I am more and more may be punished as a libel, because confirmed in holding to be judges of tending to a breach of the peace. law as well as of fact, resolutely There is, however, I believe, no interpose. Of late an act of Parmodern decided case to that effect. liament has passed declaratory of In the King's Bench, Trinity Term, their full right to one as well as the 1790, the question occurred on oc other, in matter of libel; and the casion of an indictment, The King bill having been brought in by a v. Topham, who, as a proprietor of popular gentleman, many of his a news-paper entitled The World, party have in most extravagant terms was found guilty of a libel against declaimed on the wonderful acquisiEarl Cowper, deceased, because cer tion to the liberty of the press. For tain injurious charges against his my own part I ever was clearly of Lordship were published in that opinion that this right was inherent paper. An arrest of Judgment having in the very constitution of a Jury, been moved for, the case was after and indeed in sense and reason inwards solemnly argued. My friend separable from their important funcMr. Const, whom I delight in having tion. To establish it, therefore, by an opportunity to praise, not only Statute, is, I think, narrowing its for his abilities but his manners; foundation, which is the broad and a gentleman whose ancient German deep basis of Common Law. Would blood has been mellowed in Eng it not rather weaken the right of land, and who may be truely said to primo-geniture, or any other old unite the Baron and the Barrister, and universally acknowledged right, was one of the Counsel for Mr. Top should the legislature pass an act in ham. He displayed much learning favour of it? In my Letter to the and ingenuity upon the general ques People of Scotland, against diminishtion; which, however, was not de. ing the number of the Lords of Session,
The Roman Catholick religion.
On Thursday, April 4, having called on Dr. Johnson, I said, it was a pity that truth was not so firm as to bid defiance to all attacks, so that it might be shot at as much as people chose to attempt, and yet remain unhurt. JOHNSON. “Then, Sir, it would not be shot at. Nobody' attempts to dispute that two and two make four: but with contests concerning moral truth, human passions are generally mixed, and therefore it must ever be liable to assault and misrepresentation.'
On Friday, April 5, being Good Friday, after having attended the morning service at St. Clement's Church, I walked home with Johnson. We talked of the Roman Catholick religion. JOHNSON. 'In the barbarous ages, Sir, priests and people were cqually deceived; but afterwards there were gross corruptions introduced by the clergy, such as indulgencies to priests to have concubines, and the worship of images, not, indeed, inculcated, but knowingly permitted. He strongly censured the licensed stews at Rome. BOSWELL. 'So then, Sir, you would allow of no irregular intercourse whatever between the sexes?' JOHNSON. “To be sure I would not, Sir. I would punish it much more than it is done, and so restrain it. In all countries there has been fornication, as in all countries there has been theft; but
published in 1785, there is the fol that the Judge has said, they are lowing passage, which, as a concise, decidedly of a different opinion from and I hope a fair and rational state him, they have not only a power and of the matter, I presume to quote : a right, but they are bound in con*The Juries of England are Judges science to bring in a verdict accordof law as well as of fact, in many ingly.' BOSWELL. The World is civil, and in all criminal trials. described by Gifford in his Baviad That my principles of resistance may and Maviad, as a paper set up by not be misapprehended any more 'a knot of fantastic coxcombs to than my principles of submission, direct the taste of the town.' Lowndes I protest that I should be the last (Bibl. Man. ed. 1871, p. 2994) conman in the world to encourage Juries founds it with The World mentioned to contradict rashly, wantonly, or ante, i. 257. The 'popular gentleperversely, the opinion of the Judges. man’ was Fox, whose Libel Bill On the contrary, I would have them passed the House of Lords in June listen respectfully to the advice they 1792. Parl. Hist. xxix. 1537. receive from the Bench, by which Nobody, that is to say, but Johnthey may be often well directed in son. Post, p. 24, note 2. forming their own opinion; which, 2 Of this service Johnson re* and not another's,' is the opinion corded :—'In the morning I had at they are to return upon their oaths. church some radiations of comfort.' But where, after due attention to all Pr. and Med. p. 146. VOL. III. С
Frailty in women.
there may be more or less of the one, as well as of the other, in proportion to the force of law. All men will naturally commit fornication, as all men will naturally steal. And, Sir, it is very absurd to argue, as has been often done, that prostitutes are necessary to prevent the violent effects of appetite from violating the decent order of life; nay, should be permitted, in order to preserve the chastity of our wives and daughters. Depend upon it, Sir, severe laws, steadily enforced, would be sufficient against those evils, and would promote marriage.'
I stated to him this case :- Suppose a man has a daughter, who he knows has been seduced, but her misfortune is concealed from the world ? should he keep her in his house? Would he not, by doing so, be accessray to imposition? And, perhaps, a worthy, unsuspecting man might come and marry this woman, unless the father inform him of the truth.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he is accessary to no imposition. His daughter is in his house ; and if a man courts her, he takes his chance. If a friend, or, indeed, if any man asks his opinion whether he should marry her, he ought to advise him against it, without telling why, because his real opinion is then required. Or, if he has other daughters who know of her frailty, he ought not to keep her in his house. You are to consider the state of life is this; we are to judge of one another's characters as well as we can ; and a man is not bound, in honesty or honour, to tell us the faults of his daughter or of himself. A man who has debauched his friend's daughter is not obliged to say to every body—“Take care of me; don't let me into your houses without suspicion. I once debauched a friend's daughter. I may debauch yours."
Mr. Thrale called upon him, and appeared to bear the loss of his son with a manly composure. There was no affectation about him ; and he talked, as usual, upon indifferent subjects'. He seemed to me to hesitate as to the intended Italian tour, on
The projected Italian tour.
which, I flattered myself, he and Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson were soon to set out; and, therefore, I pressed it as much as I could. I mentioned, that Mr. Beauclerk had said, that Baretti, whom they were to carry with them, would keep them so long in the little towns of his own district, that they would not have time to see Rome. I mentioned this, to put them on their guard. JOHNSON. 'Sir, we do not thank Mr. Beauclerk for supposing that we are to be directed by Baretti. No, Sir; Mr. Thrale is to go, by my advice, to Mr. Jackson', (the all-knowing) and get from him a plan for seeing the most that can be seen in the time that we have to travel. We must, to be sure, see Rome, Naples, Florence, and Venice, and as much more as we can.' (Speaking with a tone of animation.)
When I expressed an earnest wish for his remarks on Italy, he said, I do not see that I could make a book upon' Italy; yet I should be glad to get two hundred pounds, or five hundred pounds, by such a work. This shewed both that a journal of his Tour upon the Continent was not wholly out of his contemplation, and that he uniformly adhered to that strange opinion, which his indolent disposition made him utter : ‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money?.' Numerous instances
"A gentleman, who from his ex but without money could not be traordinary stores of knowledge, has stimulated to write. I have been been stiled omniscient. Johnson, I told by a clergyman with whom he think very properly, altered it to all had been long acquainted, that, knowing, as it is a verbum solenne, being (sic) to preach on a particular appropriated to the Supreme Being. occasion, he applied to him for help. BOSWELL.
“I will write a sermon for thee," said • Mrs. Thrale wrote to him on May Johnson, “but thou must pay me 3:- Should you write about Streat for it.”) See post, May 1, 1783. bam and Croydon, the book would Horace Walpole (Letters, viii. 150) be as good to me as a journey to records an anecdote that he had Rome, exactly ; for 'tis Johnson, not from Hawkins :- When Dr. JohnFalkland's Islands that interest us, son was at his work on his Shakeand your style is invariably the speare, Sir John said to him, “Well ! same. The sight of Rome might Doctor, now you have finished your have excited more reflections indeed Dictionary, I suppose you will labour than the sight of the Hebrides, and your present work con amore for so the book might be bigger, but it your reputation.” “No, Sir," said would not be better a jot.' Piozzi Johnson, “nothing excites a man to Letters, i. 318.
write but necessity." Walpole then ? Hawkins says (Life, p. 84) that relates the anecdote of the clergyJohnson was never greedy of money, man, and speaks of Johnson as the
Sketches of character.
to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of literature!
He gave us one of the many sketches of character which were treasured in his mind, and which he was wont to produce quite unexpectedly in a very entertaining manner. 'I lately, (said he,) received a letter from the East Indies, from a gentleman whom I formerly knew very well; he had returned from that country with a handsome fortune, as it was reckoned, before means were found to acquire those immense sums which have been brought from thence of late ; he was a scholar, and an agreeable man, and lived very prettily in London, till his wife died. After her death, he took to dissipation and gaming, and lost all he had. One evening he lost a thousand pounds to a gentleman whose name I am sorry I have forgotten. Next morning he sent the gentleman five hundred pounds, with an apology that it was all he had in the world. The gentleman sent the money back to him, declaring he would not accept of it; and adding, that if Mr.
had occasion for five hundred pounds more, he would lend it to him. He resolved to go out again to the East Indies, and make his fortune anew. He got a considerable appointment, and I had some intention of accompanying him. Had I thought then as I do now, I should have gone: but, at that time, I had objections to quitting England.'
It was a very remarkable circumstance about Johnson, whom shallow observers have supposed to have been ignorant of the world, that very few men had seen greater variety of characters; and none could observe them better, as was evident from the strong, yet nice portraits which he often drew. I have frequently thought that if he had made out what the French call une catalogue raisonnée of all the people who had passed under mercenary.' Walpole's sinecure ment for me.' Works, xix. 171. It offices thirty-nine years before this was, I conjecture, Gulliver's Travels. time brought him in 'near £2000 a Hume, in 1757, wrote :-'I am year. In 1782 he wrote that his office writing the History of England from of Usher of the Exchequer was worth the accession of Henry VII. I un£1800 a year. Letters, i. Ixxix, lxxxii. dertook this work because I was
Swift wrote in 1735, when he tired of idleness, and found reading was sixty-seven :--I never got a alone, after I had often perused all farthing by anything I writ, except good books (which I think is soon one about eight years ago, and that done), somewhat a languid occupawas by Mr. Pope's prudent manage tion. J. H. Burton's Hume, ii. 33.