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Protestantism, gives up so much of what he has held as facred as any thing, 1769.
When we were alone, I introduced the subject of death, and endeavoured to maintain that the fear of it might be got over. I told him that David Hume said, he was no more uneasy to think he should not be after this life, than that he had not been before he began to exist. Johnson. “ Sir, if he really thinks so, his perceptions are disturbed; he is mad : if he does not think so, he lies. He may tell you, he holds his finger in the flame of a candle, without feeling pain ; would you believe him? When he dies, he at least gives up all he has.”
Boswell. “ Foote, Sir, told me, that when he was
I attempted to continue the conversation. He was so provoked, that he
1769. to myself like the man who had put his head into the lion's mouth a great Ætat. 60. many times with perfect safety, but at last had it bit off.
Next morning I sent him a note, stating, that I might have been in the wrong, but it was not intentionally; he was therefore, I could not help thinking, too severe upon me. That notwithstanding our agreement not to meet that day, I would call on him in my way to the city, and stay five minutes by my watch. “You are, (said I,) in my mind, since last night, surrounded with cloud and storm. Let me have a glimpse of sunshine, and go about my affairs in serenity and cheerfulness.”
Upon entering his study, I was glad that he was not alone, which would have made our meeting more aukward. There were with him, Mr. Steevens and Mr. Tyers, both of whom I now saw for the first time. My note had, on his own reflection, softened him, for he received me very complacently; fo that I unexpectedly found myself at ease, and joined in the conversation.
He said, the criticks had done too much honour to Sir Richard Blackmore, by writing so much against him. That in his “ Creation” he had been helped by various wits, a line by Philips and a line by Tickell; so that by theiraid, and that of others, the poem had been made out. I defended Blackmore's lines, which have been ridiculed as abfolute nonsense :
“ A painted vest Prince Voltiger had on,,
I maintained it to be a poetical conceit. A Piet being painted, if he is Nain. in battle, and a vest is made of his skin, it is a painted vest won from him, though he was naked.
Johnson spoke unfavourably of a certain pretty voluminous authour, saying, “ He used to write anonymous books, and then other books commending those books, in which there was something of rascality.”
I whispered him, “Well, Sir, you are now in good humour.” Johnson. « Yes, Sir.” I was going to leave him, and had got as far as the stair-case. He stopped me, and smiling, said, “ Get you gone,” in a curious mode of. inviting me to stay, which I accordingly did for some time longer.
This little incidental quarrel and reconciliation, which, perhaps, I may be thought to have detailed too minutely, must be esteemed as one of many proofs which his friends had, that though he might be charged with bad humour at times, he was always a good-natured man; and I have heard Sir Joshua. Reynolds, a nice and delicate observer of manners, particularly remark, that
when upon any occasion Johnson had been rough to any person in company,., 1769. he took the first opportunity of reconciliation, by drinking to him or addresing his discourse to him; but if he found his dignified indirect overtures sullenly neglected, he was quite indifferent, and considered himself as having done all that he ought to do, and the other as now in the wrong.
Being to set out for Scotland on the roth of November, I wrote to him at Streatham, begging that he would meet me in town on the oth; but if this should be very inconvenient to him, I would go thither. His answer was as follows:
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. « DEAR SIR,
“ UPON balancing the inconveniencies of both parties, I find it will less incommode you to spend your night here, than me to come to town. I wish to see you, and am ordered by the lady of this house to invite
you hither. Whether you can come or not, I shall not have any occasion of writing to you again before your marriage, and therefore tell you now, that with great sincerity I wish you happiness. I am, dear Sir,
“ Your most affectionate humble servant, “ Nov. 9, 1769.
I was detained in town till it was too late on the gth, so went to him early in the morning of the tenth of October. “ Now (faid he,) that you are going to marry, do not expect more from life, than life will afford. You may often find yourself out of humour, and you may often think your wife not studious enough to please you ; and yet you may have reason to consider yourself as upon the whole very happily married.”
Talking of marriage in general, he observed, “ Our marriage service is too refined. It is calculated only for the best kind of marriages ; whereas, we should have a form for matches of convenience, of which there are many." He agreed with me that there was no absolute necessity for having the marriage ceremony performed by a regular clergyman, for this was not commanded in scripture.
I was volatile enough to repeat to him a little epigrammatick song of mine, on matrimony, which Mr. Garrick had a few days before procured to be fet to musick.
A MATRIMONIAL THOUGHT.
IN the blithe days of honey-moon,
With Kate's allurements smitten,
And call'd her deareft kitten.
But now my kitten's grown a cat,
And cross like other wives,
I fear she has nine lives.
My illustrious friend said, “ It is very well, Sir; but you should not swear."
He was so good as to accompany me to London, and see me into the postchaise which was to carry me on my road to Scotland. And sure I am, that however inconsiderable many of the particulars recorded at this time may appear to fome, they will be esteemed by the best part of
readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it.
In 1770 he published a political pamphlet, entitled “ The False Alarm,” intended to justify the conduct of ministry and their majority in the House of Commons, for having virtually assumed it as an axiom, that the expulsion of a Member of Parliament was equivalent to exclusion, and thus having declared Colonel Lutterel to be duly elected for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes had a great majority of votes. This being justly considered as a gross violation of the right of election, an alarm for the constitution extended itself all over the kingdom. To prove this alarm to be false, was the purpose of Johnson's pamphlet; but even his vast powers were inadequate to cope with constitutional truth and reason, and his argument failed of effect; and the House of Commons have since expunged the offensive resolution from their Journals. That the House of Commons might have expelled Mr. Wilkes repeatedly, and as often as he should be re-chosen, was not denied ; but incapacitation cannot be but by an act of the whole legislature. It was wonderful to see how a prejudice in favour of government in general, and an aversion to popular clamour, could blind and contract
such an understanding as Johnson's, in this particular case ; yet the wit, the 1770. sarcasm, the eloquent vivacity which this pamphlet displayed, made it be Ætat. 61. read with great avidity at the time, and it will ever be read with pleasure, for the sake of its composition. That it endeavoured to infuse a narcotick indifference, as to publick concerns, into the minds of the people, and that it broke out sometimes into an extreme coarseness of contemptuous abuse, is but too evident.
It must not, however, be omitted, that when the storm of his violence subsides, he takes a fair opportunity to pay a grateful compliment to the King, who had rewarded his merit: “ These low-born rulers have endeavoured, surely without effect, to alienate the affections of the people from the only King who for almost a century has much appeared to desire, or much endeavoured to deserve them.” And, “Every honest man must lament, that the faction has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the Tories, who being long accustomed to signalise their principles by opposition to the Court, do not yet consider, that they have at last a King who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people.”
To this pamphlet, which was at once discovered to be Johnson's, several answers came out, in which, care was taken to remind the publick of his former attacks upon government, and of his now being a pensioner, without allowing for the honourable terms upon which Johnson's pension was granted and accepted, or the change of fystem which the British court had undergone upon the accession of his present Majesty. He was, however, foothed in the highest strain of panegyrick, in a poem called “ The Remonstrance,” by the Reverend Mr. Stockdale, to whom he was, upon many occafions, a kind protector.
The following admirable minute made by him, describes so well his own state, and that of numbers to whom self-examination is habitual, that I cannot omit it:
“ June 1, 1770. Every man naturally persuades himfelf that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecillity but by length of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own constancy is so prevalent, that we always despise him who suffers his general and settled purpose to be overpowered by an occasional desire. They, therefore, whom frequent failures have made desperate, cease to form resolutions; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them. Those who do not make them are very few, but of their effect little is perceived; for scarcely any man persists in a course of