« ZurückWeiter »
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
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
s [The words of Erasmus (as my learned friend Archdeacon Kearney observes to me,) may be applied to Johnson; “Qui ingenium, sensum, dictionem hominis noverant, multis non offenduntur, quibus graviter erant offendendi, qui hæc ignorarunt." Malone.)
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 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-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 mor. tified 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 fulfilment ;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
" See an account of him, in a sermon by the Reverend Mr. Agutter.
7 [A correct account of Lord Lyttelton's supposed Vision may be found in Nashe's “ History of Worcestershire; "-ADDITIONS AND Corrections, p. 36. MALONB.]
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 not infinite goodness physically considered : morally there is.” BOSWELL. But
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 vehemence with which I talk; but I do not despair.” Mrs. ADAMS. 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
8 The Reverend Mr. Ralph Churton, Fellow of Brazen-Nose College, Oxford, has favoured me with the following remarks on my Work, which he is pleased to say, “ I have hitherto extolled, and cordially approve."
“ The chief part of what I have to observe is contained in the following transcript from a letter to a friend, which, with his concurrence, I copied for this purpose ; and, whatever may be the merit or justness of the remarks, you may be sure that being written to a most intimate friend, without any intention that they ever should go further, they are the genuine and undisguised sentiments of the writer :
. Jan. 6, 1792. • Last week, I was reading the second volume of Boswell's Johnson, with increasing esteem for the worthy authour, and increasing veneration of the wonderful and excellent man who is the subject of it. The writer throws in, now and then, very properly, some serious religious reflections; but there is one remark, in my mind an obvious and just one, which I think he has not made, that Johnson's “ morbid melancholy,” and constitutional infirmities, were intended by Providence, like St. Paul's thorn in the flesh, to check intellectual conceit and arrogance ; which the consciousness of his extraordinary talents, awake as he was to the voice of praise, might otherwise have generated in a very culpable degree. Another observation strikes me, that in consequence of the same natural indisposition, and habitual sickliness, (for he says he scarcely passed one day without pain after his twentieth year,) he considered and represented human life, as a scene of much greater misery than is generally experienced. There may be persons bowed down with affliction all