The law against usury.

[A.D. 1776.

smiling,) what would you give to be forty years from Scotland?' I said, 'I should not like to be so long absent from the seat of my ancestors.' This gentleman, Mrs. Williams, and Mr. Levet, dined with us.

Dr. Johnson made a remark, which both Mr. Macbean and I thought new. It was this: that the law against usury is for the protection of creditors as well as of debtors; for if there were no such check, people would be apt, from the temptation of great interest, to lend to desperate persons, by whom they would lose their money. Accordingly there are instances of ladies being ruined, by having injudiciously sunk their fortunes for high annuities, which, after a few years, ceased to be paid, in consequence of the ruined circumstances of the borrower.'

Mrs. Williams was very peevish; and I wondered at Johnson's patience with her now, as I had often done on similar occasions. The truth is, that his humane consideration of the forlorn and indigent state in which this lady was left by her father, induced him to treat her with the utmost tenderness, and even to be desirous of procuring her amusement, so as sometimes to incommode many of his friends, by carrying her with him to their houses, where, from her manner of eating, in consequence of her blindness, she could not but offend the delicacy of persons of nice sensations'.

After coffee, we went to afternoon service in St. Clement's church. Observing some beggars in the street as we walked along, I said to him I supposed there was no civilised country in the world, where the misery of want in the lowest classes of the people was prevented. JOHNSON. 'I believe, Sir, there is not; but it is better that some should be unhappy, than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality'.'

When the service was ended, I went home with him, and we sat quietly by ourselves. He recommended Dr. Cheyne's books. I said, I thought Cheyne had been reckoned whimsical. So he was, (said he,) in some things; but there is no

1 See ante, i. 268.

See ante, ii. 252. end

Aetat. 67.]

Gloomy penitence.


end of objections. There are few books to which some objection or other may not be made.' He added, 'I would not have you read anything else of Cheyne, but his book on Health, and his English Malady'.

Upon the question whether a man who had been guilty of vicious actions would do well to force himself into solitude and sadness; JOHNSON. 'No, Sir, unless it prevent him from being vicious again. With some people, gloomy penitence is only madness turned upside down. A man may be gloomy, till, in order to be relieved from gloom, he has recourse again to criminal indulgencies'.'


On Wednesday, April 10, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's,

Cheyne's English Malady, or a Treatise of Nervous Diseases of All Kinds, 1733. He recommended a milk, seed, and vegetable diet; by seed he apparently meant any kind of grain. He did not take meat. He drank green tea. At one time he weighed thirty-two stones. His work shews the great change in the use of fermented liquors since his time. Thus he says:-'For nearly twenty years I continued sober, moderate, and plain in my diet, and in my greatest health drank not above a quart, or three pints at most of wine any day' (p. 235). 'For near one-half of the time from thirty to sixty I scarce drank any strong liquor at all. It will be found that upon the whole I drank very little above a pint of wine, or at most not a quart one day with another, since I was near thirty' (p. 243). Johnson a second time recommended Boswell to read this book, post, July 2, 1776. See ante, i. 75. Boswell was not the man to follow Cheyne's advice. Of one of his works Wesley says:-'It is one of the most ingenious books which I ever saw. But what epicure will ever regard it? for "the man talks against good eating and drinking." Wesley's Journal, i. 347. Young, in his Epistles to Pope, No. ii. says:—

- three ells round huge Cheyne rails at meat.' Dr. J. H. Burton (Life of Hume, i. 45) shews reason for believing that a very curious letter by Hume was written to Cheyne.

**" Solitude," he said one day, "is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to virtue; pleasures of some sort are necessary to the intellectual as to the corporeal health; and those who resist gaiety will be likely for the most part to fall a sacrifice to appetite; for the solicitations of sense are always at hand, and a dram to a vacant and solitary person is a speedy and seducing relief. Remember (continued he) that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad."' Piozzi's Anec. p. 106.



Mr. Simpson's tragedies.

[A.D. 1776. where were Mr. Murphy and some other company. Before dinner, Dr. Johnson and I passed some time by ourselves. I was sorry to find it was now resolved that the proposed journey to Italy should not take place this year'. He said, 'I am disappointed, to be sure; but it is not a great disappointment.' I wondered to see him bear, with a philosophical calmness, what would have made most people peevish and fretful. I perceived, however, that he had so warmly cherished the hope of enjoying classical scenes, that he could not easily part with the scheme; for he said, 'I shall probably contrive to get to Italy some other way. But I won't mention it to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, as it might vex them.' I suggested, that going to Italy might have done Mr. and Mrs. Thrale good. JOHNSON. I rather believe not, Sir. While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.'

At dinner, Mr. Murphy entertained us with the history of Mr. Joseph Simpson', a school-fellow of Dr. Johnson's, a barrister at law, of good parts, but who fell into a dissipated course of life, incompatible with that success in his profession which he once had, and would otherwise have deservedly maintained; yet he still preserved a dignity in his deportment. He wrote a tragedy on the story of Leonidas, entitled The Patriot. He read it to a company of lawyers, who found so many faults, that he wrote it over again: so then

'The day before he wrote to Mrs. Thrale:-' Mr. Thrale's alteration of purpose is not weakness of resolution; it is a wise man's compliance with the change of things, and with the new duties which the change produces. Whoever expects me to be angry will be disappointed. I do not even grieve at the effect, I grieve only at the cause.' Piozzi Letters, i. 314. Mrs. Thrale on May 3 wrote:-'Baretti said you would be very angry, because this dreadful event made us put off our Italian journey, but I knew you better. Who knows even now that 'tis deferred for ever? Mr. Thrale says he shall not die in peace without seeing Rome, and I am sure he will go no-where that he can help without you.' Ib. p. 317.

2 See ante, i. 400.


Aetat. 67.j

Conversation on children.


there were two tragedies on the same subject and with the same title. Dr. Johnson told us, that one of them was still in his possession. This very piece was, after his death, published by some person who had been about him, and, for the sake of a little hasty profit, was fallaciously advertised, so as to make it be believed to have been written by Johnson himself.

I said, I disliked the custom which some people had of bringing their children into company', because it in a manner forced us to pay foolish compliments to please their parents. JOHNSON. 'You are right, Sir. We may be excused for not caring much about other people's children, for there are many who care very little about their own chilIt may be observed, that men, who from being engaged in business, or from their course of life in whatever way, seldom see their children, do not care much about them. I myself should not have had much fondness for a child of my own'.' MRS. THRALE. Nay, Sir, how can you talk so?' JOHNSON. 'At least, I never wished to have a child.'

Mr. Murphy mentioned Dr. Johnson's having a design to publish an edition of Cowley. Johnson said, he did not know but he should; and he expressed his disapprobation of Dr. Hurd, for having published a mutilated edition under the title of Select Works of Abraham Cowley. Mr. Murphy thought it a bad precedent; observing that any authour might be used in the same manner; and that it was pleasing to see the variety of an authour's compositions, at different periods.

We talked of Flatman's Poems; and Mrs. Thrale observed, that Pope had partly borrowed from him The dying Christian

'See post, July 22, 1777, note, where Boswell complains of children being 'suffered to poison the moments of festivity.'


⚫ Boswell, post, under March 30, 1783, says, 'Johnson discovered a love of little children upon all occasions.'


' Johnson at a later period thought otherwise. Post, March 30,






[A.D. 1776.

to his Soul'. Johnson repeated Rochester's verses upon Flatman', which I think by much too severe :

'Nor that slow drudge in swift Pindarick strains,
Flatman, who Cowley imitates with pains,

And rides a jaded Muse, whipt with loose reins.'

I like to recollect all the passages that I heard Johnson repeat: it stamps a value on them.

He told us, that the book entitled The Lives of the Poets, by Mr. Cibber, was entirely compiled by Mr. Shiels, a Scotchman, one of his amanuenses. The bookseller (said he,) gave Theophilus Cibber, who was then in prison, ten guineas, to allow Mr. Cibber to be put upon the title-page, as the authour; by this, a double imposition was intended: in the first place, that it was the work of a Cibber at all; and, in the second place, that it was the work of old Cibber'.'

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Pope borrowed from the following lines:

'When on my sick bed I languish,
Full of sorrow, full of anguish ;

Fainting, gasping, trembling, crying,
Panting, groaning, speechless, dying—
Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say,
Be not fearful, come away.'

Campbell's Brit. Poets, p. 301.

2 In Rochester's Allusion to the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace.

In the Monthly Review for May 1792, there is such a correction of the above passage, as I should think myself very culpable not to subjoin. This account is very inaccurate. The following statement of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance :-Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work: but as he was very raw in authourship, an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scotticisms, Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes, occasionally, especially concerning those dramatick poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the Lives; which, (as we are told,) he, accordingly, performed. He was farther useful in striking out the Jacobitical and Tory sentiments, which Shiels had industriously inter


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