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I mentioned to him a dispute between a friend of mine and his lady, concerning conjugal infidelity, which my friend had maintained was by no means so bad in the husband, as in the wife. Johnson: “Your friend was in the right, Sir. Between a man and his Maker it is a different question : but between a man and his wife, a husband's infidelity is nothing. They are connected by children, by fortune, by serious considerations of community. Wise married women don't trouble themselves about infidelity in their husbands.” BosWELL: “To be sure there is a great difference between the offence of infidelity in a man and that of his wife.” Johnson: “ The difference is boundless. The man imposes no bastards upon his wife.”
Here it may be questioned, whether Johnson was entirely in the right. I suppose it will not be controverted, that the difference in the degree of criminality is very great, on account of consequences : but still it may be maintained, that, independent of moral obligation, infidelity is by no means a light offence in a husband; because it must hurt a delicate attachment, in which a mutual constancy is implied, with such refined sentiments as Massinger has exhibited in his play of “ The Picture.”—Johnson probably at another time would have admitted this opinion. And let it be kept in remembrance, that he was very careful not to give any encouragement to irregular conduct. A gentleman not adverting to the distinction made by him subject, supposed a case of singular perverseness in a wife, and heedlessly said, “That then he thought a husband might do as he pleased with a safe conscience.” Johnson: “Nay, Sir, this is wild indeed (smiling); you must consider that fornication is a crime in a
15. Inner Temple-lane, No. 1. 16. Johnson's-court, No. 7. 17. Bolt-court, No. 8.
single man; and you cannot have more liberty by being married.”
He this evening expressed himself strongly against the Roman Catholics ; observing, “ In every thing in which they differ from us, they are wrong." He was even against the invocation of Saints; in short, he was in the humour of opposition.
Having regretted to him that I had learnt little Greek, as is too generally the case in Scotland; that I had for a long time hardly applied at all to the study of that noble language, and that I was desirous of being told by him what method to follow; he recommended to me as easy helps, Sylvanus's “First Book of the Iliad; " Dawson's “ Lexicon to the Greek New Testament;" and “ Hesiod,” with Pasoris Lexicon at the end of it.
On Tuesday, October 12, I dined with him at Mr. Ramsay's, with Lord Newhaven, and some other company, none of whom I recollect, but a beautiful Miss Graham,' a relation of his Lordship’s, who asked Dr. Johnson to hob or nob with her. He was flattered by such pleasing attention, and politely told her, he never drank wine; but if she would drink a glass of water, he was much at her service. She accepted. Oho, Sir,! (said Lord Newhaven) you are caught.” Johnson: “Nay, I do not see how I am caught; but if I am caught, I don't want to get free again. If I am caught, I hope to be kept.” Then when the two glasses of water were brought, smiling placidly to the young lady, he said, “ Madam, let us reciprocate.”
Lord Newhaven and Johnson carried on an argument for some time, concerning the Middlesex election. Johnson said, “ Parliament may be considered as bound by law, as a man is bound where there is nobody to tie the knot. As it is clear that the House of Commons may expel, and expel again and again, why not
"Now the lady of Sir Henry Dashwood, Bart.
allow of the power to incapacitate for that parliament, rather than have a perpetual contest kept up between parliament and the people.” Lord Newhaven took the opposite side; but respectfully said, “ I speak with great deference to you, Dr. Johnson; I speak to be instructed." This had its full effect on my friend. He bowed his head almost as low as the table, to a complimenting nobleman; and called out, “ My Lord, my Lord, I do not desire all this ceremony ; let us tell our minds to one another quietly.” After the debate was over, he said, “ I have got lights on the subject to-day, which I had not before.” This was a great deal from him, especially as he had written a pamphlet upon it.
He observed, “ The House of Commons was originally not a privilege of the people, but a check, for the Crown, on the House of Lords. I remember, Henry the Eighth wanted them to do something ; they hesitated in the morning, but did it in the afternoon. He told them, “ It is well you did; or half should have been upon Temple-bar.' But the House of Commons is now no longer under the power of the crown, and therefore must be bribed.” He added “ I have no delight in talking of publick affairs.”
Of his fellow-collegian, the celebrated Mr. George Whitefield, he said, “ Whitefield never drew as much attention as a mountebank does; he did not draw attention by doing better than others, but by doing what was strange. Were Astley to preach a sermon standing upon his head on a horse's back, he would collect a multitude to hear him; but no wise man would say he had made a better sermon for that. I never treated Whitefield's ministry with contempt; I believe he did good. He had devoted himself to the lower classes of mankind, and among them he was of use. But when familiarity and noise claim the praise due to knowledge, art, and elegance, we must beat down such pretensions.”
your heads What I have preserved of his conversation during the remainder of my stay in London at this time, is only what follows: I told him that when I objected to keeping company with a notorious infidel, a celebrated friend of ours said to me," I do not think that men who live laxly in the world, as you and I do, can with propriety assume such an authority: Dr. Johnson may, who is uniformly exemplary in his conduct. But it is not very consistent to shun an infidel to-day, and get drunk to-morrow.” Johnson: “ Nay Sir, this is sad reasoning. Because a man cannot be right in all things, is he to be right in nothing? Because a man sometimes gets drunk, is he therefore to steal? This doctrine would very soon bring a man to the gallows.”
After all, however, it is a difficult question how far sincere Christians should associate with the avowed enemies of religion ; for in the first place, almost every man's mind may be more or less corrupted by evil communications ;' secondly, the world may very naturally suppose that they are not really in earnest in religion, who can easily bear its opponents; and thirdly, if the profane find themselves quite well received by the pious, one of the checks upon an open declaration of their infidelity, and one of the probable chances of obliging them seriously to reflect, which their being shunned would do, is removed.
He, I know not why, shewed upon all occasions an aversion to go to Ireland, where I proposed to him that we should make a tour. Johnson : “ It is the last place where I should wish to travel.” BOSWELL: “ Should you not like to see Dublin, Sir?” Johnson :
No, Sir; Dublin is only a worse capital.” BosWELL: “Is not the Giant's-causeway worth seeing ?” JOHNSON: “Worth seeing ? yes; but not worth going to see.
Yet he had a kindness for the Irish nation, and thus
generously expressed himself to a gentleman from that country, on the subject of an Union which artful Politicians have often had in view“ do not make an union with us, Sir, we should unite with you, only to rob you. We should have robbed the Scotch, if they had had any thing of which we could have robbed them.”
Of an acquaintance of ours, whose manners and every thing about him, though expensive, were coarse, he said, “Sir, you see in him vulgar prosperity.”
A foreign minister of no very high talents, who had been in his company for a considerable time quite overlooked, happened luckily to mention that he had read some of his “Rambler” in Italian, and admired it much., This pleased him greatly; he observed that the title had been translated, Il Genio errante, though I have been told it was rendered more ludicrously, Il Vagabondo; and finding that this minister gave such a proof of his taste, he was all attention to him, and on the first remark which he made, however simple, exclaimed, “ The Ambassadour says well;—His excellency observes —; And then he expanded and enriched the little that had been said, in so strong a manner, that it appeared something of consequence. This was exceedingly entertaining to the company who were present, and many a time afterwards it furnished a pleasant topick of merriment: “ The Ambassadour says well,” became a laughable term of applause, when no mighty matter had been expressed.
I left London on Monday, October 18, and accompanied Colonel Stuart to Chester, where his regiment was to lie for some time.
“MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON. “MY DEAR SIR,
Chester, October 22, 1779. “It was not till one o'clock on Monday morning, that Colonel Stuart and I left London ; for we chose to