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vised me against being a lawyer, because I should be excelled by plodding blockheads. JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, in the formulary and statutory part of law, a plodding blockhead may excel; but in the ingenious and rational part of it, a plodding blockhead can never excel.”
I talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the world, by courting great men', and asked him whether he had ever submitted to it. JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I never was near enough to great men, to court them. You may be prudently attached to great men, and yet independent. You are not to do what you think wrong; and, sir, you are to calculate, and not pay too dear for what you get. You must not give a shilling's worth of court for sixpence worth of good. But if you can get a shilling's worth of good for sixpence worth of court, you are a fool if you do not pay court.”
He said, “If convents should be allowed at all, they should only be retreats for persons unable to serve the publick, or who have served it. It is our first duty to serve society?; and after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A youthful passion for abstracted devotion should not be encouraged.”
I introduced the subject of second sight, and other
[See ante, vol. i. p. 101.-Ed.) ? (This observation has given offence, as if it seemed to sanction the postponement of the care of our salvation, until we should have performed all our duties to society; which would be, in fact, an adjournment sine die. But Dr. Johnson was talking of monastic retirement, and, from the context, as well as from his own practice, it is clear that he must have meant, that an entire abstraction from the world, and an exclusive dedication to recluse devotion, was not justifiable as long as any of our duties to society were unperformed. Bishop Taylor, who will not be suspected of worldliness, has a sentiment not dissimilar: “ If our youth be chaste and temperate, moderate and industrious, proceeding, through a prudent and sober manhood, to a religious old age, then we have lived our whole duration, and shall never die.”—Holy Dying, c. i. s. 3. Neither the bishop nor Dr. Johnson could mean that youth and manhood should not be religious, but that they should not be religious to the crclusion of the social duties of industry, prudence, &c. See post, 19th August, 1773, where Johnson quotes from Hesiod, a line which Bishop Taylor had probably in his mind.-Ev.]
turally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other !.”
I mentioned the advice given us by philosophers, to console ourselves, when distressed or embarrassed, by thinking of those who are in a worse situation than ourselves. This, I observed, could not apply to all, for there must be some who have nobody worse than they are. Johnson. “Why, to be sure, sir, there are; but they don't know it. There is no being so poor and so contemptible, who does not think there is somebody still poorer, and still more contemptible.”
As my stay in London at this time was very short, I had not many opportunities of being with Dr. Johnson; but I felt my veneration for him in no degree lessened, by my having seen multorum hominum mores et urbes. On the contrary, by having it in my power to compare him with many of the most celebrated persons of other countries, my admiration of his extraordinary mind was increased and confirmed. .
The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared in his manners, was more striking to me now, from my having been accustomed to the studied smooth complying habits of the Continent; and I clearly recognized in him, not without respect for his honest conscientious zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treating every attempt to unhinge or weaken good principles.
One evening, when a young gentleman teased him with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could not read them in the original tongues, and be
[No mistake was ever greater, in terms or in substance, than that which affirms the untural equality of mankind. Men, on the contrary, are born so very unequal in capacities and powers, mental and corporeal, that it requires laws and the institutions of civil society to bring them to a state of moral equality. Social equality--that is, equality in property, power, rank, and respect--if it were miraculously established, could not maintain its. If a work.-Eo.
sure that they were not invented : “ Why, foolish fellow,” said Johnson, “ has he any better authority for almost every thing that he believes ?” BOSWELL. “ Then the vulgar, sir, never can know they are right, but must submit themselves to the learned.” JOHNSON. “To be sure, sir. The vulgar are the children of the state, and must be taught like children.” BOSWELL. “Then, sir, a poor Turk must be a Mahometan, just as a poor Englishınan must be a Christian ?" JOHNSON. “Why, yes, sir; and what then? This now is such stuff as I used to talk to my mother, when I first began to think myself a clever fellow ; and she ought to have whipt me for it.”
Another evening Dr. Goldsmith and I called on him, with the hope of prevailing on him to sup with us at the Mitre. We found him indisposed, and resolved not to go abroad. “Come then,” said Goldsmith, “ we will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have the big man with us." Johnson then called for a bottle of port, of which Goldsmith and I partook, while our friend, now a water drinker, sat by us. GOLDSMITH. “I think, Mr. Johnson, you don't go near the theatres now. You give yourself no more concern about a new play, than if you had never had any thing to do with the stage.” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does
+ [It may be suspected that Dr. Johnson called this, “childish stuff,” somewhat hastily, and from a desire of evading the subject ; for, no doubt, the principle involved in Mr. Boswell's inquiries is one of very high importance, and ot' very great difficulty–difficulty so great, that Johnson himself, though, indeed (as we shall see, post, 7th May, 1773), sometimes led to talk seriously, and even warmly on the subject, seems unable to maintain the full extent of his principles by solid reason, and therefore ends the discussion either by ridicule or violence. -Ed.]
2 [These two little words may be observed as marks of Mr. Boswell's accuracy in reporting the expressions of his personages. It is a jocular Irish phrase, which, of all Johnson's acquaintances, no o!e's probably, but Goldsmith could have used.—En.