« ZurückWeiter »
da? for if you should advise me to go to Japan, I be. 1772. lieve I should do it.” Johnson. " Why yes, Sir, I
Ætat. am serious.” BoswELL. “ Why then I'll see what can 63. be done.”
I gave him an account of the two parties in the church of Scotland, those for supporting the rights of patrons, independent of the people, and those against it. Johnson. " It should be settled one way or other. I cannot wish well to a popular election of the clergy, when I consider that it occasions such animosities, such unworthy courting of the people, such slanders between the contending parties, and other disadvantages. It is enough to allow the people to remonstrate against the nomination of a minister for solid reasons." (I suppose he meant heresy or immorality.)
He was engaged to dine abroad, and asked me to return to him in the evening, at nine, which I accordingly did.
We drank tea with Mrs. Williams, who told us a story of second sight, which happened in Wales where she was born. He listened to it very attentively, and said he should be glad to have some instances of that faculty well authenticated. His elevated wish for more and more evidence for spirit, in opposition to the groveling belief of materialism, led him to a love of such mysterious disquisitions. He again justly observed, that we could have no certainty of the truth of supernatural appearances, unless something was told us which we could not know by ordinary means, or something done which could not be done but by supernatu. ral power ; that Pharaoh in reason and justice required such evidence from Moses ; nay, that our Saviour said, “ If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.” He had said in in the morning, that “ Macaulay's History of St. Kilda” was very well written, except some foppery about liberty and slavery. I mentioned to him that Macaulay told me, he was advised to leave out of his book the wonderful
that the approach of a stranger all the inhabitants catch cold ;? but that it had been so
See Vol. I. p. 428. VOL. II.
1772. well authenticated, he determined to retain it. JOHN. Ætat. son. “ Sir, to leave things out of a book, merely be. 63. cause people tell you they will not be believed, is
meanness." Macaulay acted with more magnanimity.”
We talked of the Roman Catholick religion, and how little difference there was in essential matters between ours and it. Johnson. " True, Sir; all denominations of Christians have really little difference in point of doctrine, though they may differ widely in external forms. There is a prodigious difference between the external form of one of your Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and a church in Italy ; yet the doctrine taught is essentially the same.
I mentioned the petition to Parliament for removing the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles. Johnson. “ It was soon thrown out. Sir, they talk of not making boys at the University subscribe to what they do not understand; but they ought to consider, that our Universities were founded to bring up members for the church of England, and we must not supply our enemies with arms from our arsenal, No, Sir, the meaning of subscribing is, not that they fully understand all the articles, but that they will adhere to the Church of England. Now take it in this way, and suppose that they should only subscribe their adherence to the Church of England, there would be still the same difficulty ; for still the young men would be subscribing to what they do not understand. For if you should ask them, what do you mean by the Church of England ? Do you know in what it differs from the Presbyterian Church ? from the Romish Church? from the Greek Church ? from the Coptick Church? they could not tell you. So, Sir, it comes to the same thing." Boswell. " But, would it not be sufficient to subscribe the Bible ?” Johnson. “Why no, Sir; for all sects will subscribe the Bible ; nay, the Mahometans will subscribe the Bible ; for the Mahometans acknowledge Jesus Christ, as well as Moses, but maintain that God sent Mahomet as a still greater prophet than either.
I mentioned the motion which had been made in the House of Commons, to abolish the fast of the 30th of
January. Johnson. “Why, Sir, I could have wished 1772. that it had been a temporary act, perhaps, to have ex- Ætat. pired with the century. I am against abolishing it ; 63. because that would be declaring it wrong to establish it ; but I should have no objection to make an act, continuing it for another century, and then letting it expire.”
He disapproved of the Royal Marriage Bill ; “Because (said he) I would not have the people think that the validity of marriage depends on the will of man, or that the right of a King depends on the will of-man. I should not have been against making the marriage of any of the royal family without the approbation of King and Parliament, highly criminal."
In the morning we had talked of old families, and the respect due to them. Johnson. “ Sir, you have a right to that kind of respect, and are arguing for youtself. I am for supporting the principle, and am disinterested in doing it
, as I have no such right.” Bos. WELL. Why, Sir, it is one more incitement to a man to do well.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir, and it is a matter of opinion, very necessary to keep society together. What is it but opinion, by which we have a respect for authority, that prevents us, who are the rabble, from rising up and pulling down you who are gentlemen from your places, and saying. We will be gentlemen in our turn ? Now, Sir, that respect for authority is much more easily granted to a man whose father has had it, than to an upstart, and so Society is more easily supported.” BOSWELL. “ Perhaps, Sir, it might be done by the respect belonging to office, as among the Romans, where the dress, the toga, inspired reverence." Johnson. “Why, we know very little about the Romans. But, surely, it is much easier to respect à man who has always had respect, than to respect a man who we know was last year no better than ourselves, and will be no better next year. `In republicks there is no respect for authority, but a fear of power.” Boswell. " At present, Sir, I think riches seem to gain most respect.” Johnson. “ No, Sir, riches do not gain hearty respect ; they only procure external attention. A very
1772. rich man, from low beginnings, may buy his election Ætat.
in a borough; but cæteris paribus, a man of family will 63. be preferred. People will prefer a man for whose fa
ther their fathers have voted, though they should get no more money, or even less. That shows that the respect for family is not merely fanciful, but has an actual operation. If gentlemen of family would allow the rich upstarts to spend their money profusely, which they are ready enough to do, and not vie with them in expence, the upstarts would soon be at an end, and the gentlemen would remain ; but if the gentlemen will vie in expence with the upstarts, which is very foolish, they must be ruined.”
I gave him an account of the excellent mimickry of a friend of mine in Scotland; observing, at the same time, that some people thought it a very mean thing: Johnson. “ Why, Sir, it is making a very mean use of man's powers. But to be a good mimick, requires great powers ; great acuteness of observation, great retention of what is observed, and great pliancy of organs, to represent what is observed. I remember a lady of quality in this town, Lady wonderful mimick, and used to make me laugh immoderately. I have heard she is now gone mad.” Boswell. “ It is amazing how a mimick can not only give you the gestures and voice of a person whom he represents; but even what a person would say on any particular subject.” Johnson. " Why, Sir, you are to consider that the manner and some particular phrases of person do much to impress you with an idea of him, and you are not sure that he would say what the mimick says in his character.” BOSWELL. “ I don't think Foote a good mimick, Sir.” Johnson. “ No, Sir; his imitations are not like. He gives you something different from himself, but not the character which he means to assume. He goes out of himself, without going into other people. He cannot take off any person unless he is strongly marked, such as George Faulkner. He is like a painter who can draw the portrait of a man who has a wen upon his face, and who therefore is easily known. If a man hops upon one leg, Foote can hop upon one
who was a
leg. But he has not that nice discrimination which 1772. your friend seems to possess. Foote is, however, very Ætat. entertaining with a kind of conversation between wit 63. and buffoonery.”
On Monday, March 23, I found him busy, preparing a fourth edition of his folio Dictionary. Mr. Peyton, one of his original amanuenses, was writing for him. I put him in mind of a meaning of the word side, which he had omitted, viz. relationship ; as father's side, mother's side. He inserted it. I asked him if humiliating was a good word. He said, he had seen it frequently used, but he did not know it to be legitimate English. He would not admit civilization, but only civility. With great deference to him I thought civilization, from to civilize, better in the sense opposed to barbarity, than civility; as it is better to have a distinct word for each sense, than one word with two senses, which civility is, in his way of using it.
He seemed also to be intent on some sort of chymical operation. I was entertained by observing how he contrived to send Mr. Peyton on an errand, without seeming to degrade him, “ Mr. Peyton,-Mr. Peyton, will you be so good as to take a walk to Temple-Bar ? You will there see a chymist's shop, at which you will be pleased to buy for me an ounce of oil of vitriol; not spirit of vitriol, but oil of vitriol. It will cost three half-pence.” Peyton immediately went, and returned with it, and told him it cost but a penny.
I then reminded him of the schoolmaster's cause, and proposed to read to him the printed papers concerning it. “No, Sir, (said he,) I can read quicker than I can hear.” So he read them to himself, .
After he had read for some time, we were interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Kristrom, a Swede, who was tutor to some young gentlemen in the city. He told me, that there was a very good History of Sweden, by Daline. Having at that time an intention of writing the history of that country, I asked Dr. Johnson whether one might write a history of Sweden, without going thither. “ Yes, Sir, (said he,) one for common