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people.” I said his principles had been poisoned by a noted infidel writer, but that he was, nevertheless, , a benevolent good man. Johnson. “We can have no dependence upon that instinctive, that constitutional goodness which is not founded upon principle. I grant you that such a man may be a very amiable member of society. I can conceive him placed in such a situation that he is not much tempted to deviate from what is right; and as every man prefers virtue, when there is not some strong incitement to transgress its precepts, I can conceive him doing nothing wrong. But if such a man stood in need of money, I should not like to trust him; and I should certainly not trust him with young ladies, for there there is always temptation. Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expense. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to error. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. If I could have allowed myself to gratify my vanity at the expense of truth, what fame might I have acquired! Every thing which Hume has advanced against Christianity had passed through my mind long before he wrote. Always remember this, that after a system is well settled upon positive evidence, a few partial objections ought not to shake it. The human mind is so limited, that it cannot take in all the parts of a subject, so that there may be objections raised against any thing. There are objections against a plenum, and objections against a vacuum ; yet one of them must certainly be true.”
I mentioned Hume's argument against the belief of miracles, that it is more probable that the witnesses to the truth of them are mistaken, or speak falsely, than that the miracles should be true. JOHNSON.
Why, Sir, the great difficulty of proving miracles should make us very cautious in believing them. But let us consider; although God has made Nature to operate by certain fixed laws, yet it is not unreasonable to think that he may suspend those laws, in order to establish a system highly advantageous to mankind. Now the Christian religion is a most beneficial system, as it gives us light and certainty where we were before in darkness and doubt. The miracles which prove it are attested by men who had no interest in deceiving us; but who, on the contrary, were told that they should suffer persecution, and did actually lay down their lives in confirmation of the truth of the facts which they asserted. Indeed, for some centuries the heathens did not pretend to deny the miracles; but said they were performed by the aid of evil spirits. This is a circumstance of great weight. Then, Sir, when we take the proofs derived from prophecies which have been so exactly fulfilled, we have most satisfactory evidence. Supposing a miracle possible, as to which, in my opinion, there can be no doubt, we have as strong evidence for the miracles in support of Christianity as the nature of the thing admits."
At night, Mr. Johnson and I supped in a private room at the Turk's Head coffee-house, in the Strand. “I encourage this house,” said he, " for the mistress of it is a good civil woman, and has not much business."
“ Sir, I love the acquaintance of young people ; because, in the first place, I don't like to think myself growing old. In the next place, young acquaintances must last longest, if they do last; and then, Sir, young men have more virtue than old men; they have more generous sentiments in every respect. I love the young dogs of this age, they have more wit and humour and knowledge of life than we had (; but then the dogs are not so good scholars. Sir, in my early years I read very hard. It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I knew almost as much at eighteen as I do now. (2) My judgment, to be sure, was not so good ; but, I haci all the facts. I remember very well, when I was at Oxford, an old gentleman said to me, · Young man, ply your book diligently now, and acquire a stock of knowledge; for when years come unto you, you will find that poring upon books will be but an irksome task.'
This account of his reading, given by himself in plain words, sufficiently confirms what I have al
(1) The justice of this assertion may be doubted. Johnson was comparing men of such a rank and station as he now met, with the narrow, provincial, and inferior society in which his own youth was spent. — C.
(2) His great period of study was from the age of twelve to that of eighteen; as he told Nr.
Langton, who gave me this information.- M. - He went to Oxford in his nineteenth year, and seems to have translated the Messiah when he had been there not quite three months. - C.
ready advanced upon the disputed question as to his application. It reconciles any seeming inconsistency in his way of talking upon it at different times ; and shows that idleness and reading hard were with him relative terms, the import of which, as used by him, must be gathered from a comparison with what scholars of different degrees of ardour and assiduity have been known to do. And let it be remembered, that he was now talking spontaneously, and expressing his genuine sentiments ; whereas at other times he might be induced from his spirit of contradiction, or more properly from his love of argumentative contest, to speak lightly of his own application to study. It is pleasing to consider that the old gentleman's gloomy prophecy as to the irksomeness of books to men of an advanced age, which is too often fulfilled, was so far from being verified in Johnson, that his ardour for literature never failed, and his last writings had more ease and vivacity than any of his earlier productions.
He mentioned it to me now, for the first time, that he had been distressed by melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at night. (1) He said melancholy people were apt to fly to intemperance for relief, but that it sunk them much deeper in misery. He observed, that labour
(1) See antè, Vol. I. p. 113. n.
ing men, who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.
He again insisted on the duty of maintaining subordination of rank. “Sir, I would no more deprive a nobleman of his respect, than of his money. I consider myself as acting a part in the great system of society, and I do to others as I would have them to do to me. I would behave to a nobleman as I should expect he would behave to me, were I a nobleman and he Sam. Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay (1), in this town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, · Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us.' I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves. They would all have some people under them; why not then have some people above them ?” I mentioned a certain author (2) who disgusted me by his forwardness, and by shewing no deference to
(1) This “one Mrs. Macaulay” was the same personage, who afterwards made herself so much known as “the celebrated female historian.” See antè, Vol. I. p. 289. — C. (2) Something of this kind has been imputed to Goldsmith. C