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much admired, and asked Dr. Johnson if he had read it. JOHNSON. “I have looked into it." “ What," said Elphinston, “ have you not read it through ?” Johnson, offended at being thus pressed, and so obliged to own his cursory mode of reading, answered tartly, “No, sir; do you read books through ?”
He this day again defended duelling, and put his argument upon what I have ever thought the most solid basis; that if publick war be allowed to be consistent with morality, private war must be equally so. Indeed we may observe what strained arguments are used to reconcile war with the Christian religion. But, in my opinion, it is exceedingly clear that duelling having better reasons for its barbarous violence, is more justifiable than war in which thousands go forth without any cause of personal quarrel, and massacre each other.
On Wednesday, April 21, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's. A gentleman attacked Garrick for being vain. Johnson. “No wonder, sir, that he is vain; a man who is perpetually flattered in every mode that can be conceived. So many bellows have blown the fire, that one wonders he is not by this time become a cinder." Boswell. “And such bellows too! Lord Mansfield with his cheeks like to burst: Lord Chatham like an folus ?. I have read such notes from them to him, as were enough to turn his head.” JOHNSON. “True. When he whom every body else flatters, flatters me, I then am truly happy. MRS. THRALE. “The sentiment is in Congreve, I think.” JOHNSON. “Yes, madam, in • The Way of the World:
If there's delight in love, 'tis when I see
* (Lord Chatham addressed to him those very pretty lines, beginning,
“Leave, Garrick, leave the landscape, proudly gay; Dock, forts, and navies brightning all the bay."-ED.]
No, sir, I should not be surprised though Garrick chained the ocean and lashed the winds." BOSWELL. “Should it not be, sir, lashed the ocean and chained the winds ?” JOHNSON. “No, sir; recollect the original :
This does very well, when both the winds and the sea are personified, and mentioned by their mythological names, as in Juvenal; but when they are mentioned in plain language, the application of the epithets suggested by me is the most obvious; and accordingly my friend himself, in his imitation of the passage which describes Xerxes, has
“ The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind !."
The modes of living in different countries, and the various views with which men travel in quest of new scenes, having been talked of, a learned gentleman who holds a considerable office in the law expatiated on the happiness of a savage life, and mentioned an instance of an officer who had actually lived for some time in the wilds of America, of whom, when in that state, he quoted this reflection with an air of admi-. ration, as if it had been deeply philosophical : “ Here am I, free and unrestrained, amidst the rude magnificence of Nature, with this Indian woman by my side, and this gun, with which I can procure food when I want it: what more can be desired for human happiness ?” It did not require much sagacity to foresee that such a sentiment would not be permitted to pass without due animadversion. Johnson. “ Do not allow yourself, sir, to be imposed upon by such
So also Butler, Hudibras, P. II. c. i. v. 845.
“A Persian emperor whipt his grannam,
gross absurdity. It is sad stuff; it is brutish. If a bull could speak, he might as well exclaim-Here am I with this cow and this grass; what being can enjoy greater felicity ?”
We talked of the melancholy end of a gentleman' who had destroyed himself. Johnson. “ It was owing to imaginary difficulties in his affairs, which, had he talked of with any friend, would soon have vanished.” BOSWELL. “Do you think, sir, that all who commit suicide are mad?" Johnson. “Sir, they are often not universally disordered in their intellects, but one passion presses so upon them, that they yield to it, and commit suicide, as a passionate man will stab another.” He added, “I have often thought, that after a man has taken the resolution to kill himself, it is not courage in him to do any thing, however desperate, because he has nothing to fear." GOLDSMITH. " I don't see that.” Johnson. “ Nay, but, my dear sir, why should you not see what every one else sees?” GOLDSMITH. “ It is for fear of something that he has resolved to kill himself: and will not that timid disposition restrain him?” JohnSON. “ It does not signify that the fear of something made him resolve; it is upon the state of his mind after the resolution is taken that I argue. Suppose a man either from fear, or pride, or conscience, or whatever motive, has resolved to kill himself; when once the resolution is taken, he has nothing to fear. He may then go and take the King of Prussia by the nose, at the head of his army. He cannot fear the rack, who is resolved to kill himself. When Eustace Budgell was walking down to the Thames, determined
(Sir John Hawkins (who, however, was not well disposed towards Mr. Dyer) affords some ground for suspecting that he (who had died in September, 1772) was the person alluded to. See, however, Malone's Life of Dryden, p. 85, which assigns reasons (though they have not quite convinced the Editor) for doubting that Mr. Dyer could be the person here meant.-Ed.)
to drown himself', he might, if he pleased, without any apprehension of danger, have turned aside, and first set fire to St. James's palace.”
On Tuesday, April 27, Mr. Beauclerk and I called on him in the morning. As we walked up Johnson'scourt, I said, “ I have a veneration for this court;" and was glad to find that Beauclerk had the same reverential enthusiasm. We found him alone. We talked of Mr. Andrew Stuart's elegant and plausible Letters to Lord Mansfield ?; a copy of which had been sent by the authour to Dr. Johnson. Johnson.
They have not answered the end. They have not been talked of; I have never heard of them. This is owing to their not being sold. People seldom read a book which is given to them; and few are given. The way to spread a work is to sell it at a low price. No man will send to buy a thing that costs even sixpence, without an intention to read it.” BOSWELL.
May it not be doubted, sir, whether it be proper to publish letters, arraigning the ultimate decision of an important cause by the supreme judicature of the nation?" JOHNSON. “No, sir, I do not think it was wrong to publish these letters. If they are thought to do harm, why not answer them ? But they will do no harm. If Mr. Douglas be indeed the son of Lady Jane, he cannot be hurt: if he be not her son, and yet has the great estate of the family of Douglas, he may well submit to have a pamphlet against him by Andrew Stuart. Sir, I think such a publication does good, as it does good to show us the possibilities of human life. And, sir, you will not say that the
[A friend and relative of Addison's, who drowned himself to escape a prosecution on account of forging the will of Dr. Tindal, in which Budgell had provided himself with a legacy of 2000). To this Pope alludes :
“Let Budgell charge low Grub-street on my quill,
And write whate'er he please-except my will."-Ed.] [On the Douglas Cause.-Ed.]
Douglas cause was a cause of easy decision, when it divided your court as much as it could do, to be determined at all. When your judges are seven and seven, the casting vote of the president must be given on one side or other; no matter, for my argument, on which; one or the other must be taken; as when I am to move, there is no matter which leg I move first. And then, sir, it was otherwise determined here. No, sir, a more dubious determination of any question cannot be imagined".”
He said, “ Goldsmith should not be for ever attempting to shine in conversation : he has not temper for it, he is so much mortified when he fails. Sir, a game of jokes is composed partly of skill, partly of chance; a man may be beat at times by one who has not the tenth part of his wit. Now Goldsmith's putting himself against another, is like a man laying a hundred to one, who cannot spare the hundred.
It is not worth a man's while. A man should not lay a hundred to one, unless he can easily spare it, though he has a hundred chances for him: he can get but a guinea, and he may lose a hundred. Goldsmith is in this state. When he contends, if he gets the better, it is a very little addition to a man of his literary reputation : if he does not get the better, he is miserably vexed.”
Johnson's own superlative powers of wit set him above any risk of such uneasiness. Garrick had remarked to me of him, a few days before, “ Rabelais and all other wits are nothing compared with him. You
'I regretted that Dr. Johnson never took the trouble to study a question which interested nations. He would not even read a pamphlet which I wrote upon it, entitled The Essence of the Douglas Cause ; which I have reason to flatter myself had considerable effect in favour of Mr. Douglas ; of whose legitimate filiation I was then, and am still, firmly convinced. Let me add, that no fact can be more respectably ascertained, than by the judgment of the most august tribunal in the world ; a judgment in which Lord Mansfield and Lord Camden united in 1769, and from which only five of a numerous body entered a protest.--BOSWELL.