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I have no minute of any interview with Johnson till Thursday, May 15th, when I find what follows: BOSWELL. "I wish much to be in parliament, Sir." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, unless you come resolved to support any administration, you would be the worse for being in parliament, because you would be obliged to live more expensively." BosWELL. "Perhaps, Sir, I should be the less happy for being in parliament. I never would sell my vote, and I should be vexed if things went wrong." JOHNSON. "That's cant, Sir. It would not vex you more in the House than in the gallery: public affairs vex no man." BOSWELL. "Have not they vexed yourself a little, Sir? Have not you been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign, and by that absurd vote of the house of commons, 'That the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished?" JOHNSON. Sir, I have never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce less meat. I would have knocked he factious dogs on the head, to be sure; but I was not vexed." BOSWELL. "I declare, Sir, upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed, and took a pride in it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I neither eat less nor slept less." JOHNSON. "My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do; you may say to a man, 'Sir, I am your humble servant.' You are not his most humble servant. You may say, 'These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times.' You don't mind the times. You tell a man, 'I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet.' You don't care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner ; it is a mode of talking in society; but don't think foolishly."
I talked of living in the country. JOHNSON. "Don't set up for what is called hospitality: it is a waste of time, and a waste of money; you are eaten up, and not the more respected for your liberality. If your house be like an inn, nobody cares for you. A man who stays a week with another makes him a slave for a week." BOSWELL. "But there are people, Sir, who make their houses a home to their guests, and are themselves quite easy." JOHNSON.
Then, Sir, home must be the same to the guests, and they need not come."
Here he discovered a notion common enough in persons not much
accustomed to entertain company, that there must be a degree of elaborate attention, otherwise company will think themselves neglected; and such attention is no doubt very fatiguing. He proceeded: "I would not, however, be a stranger in my own country; I would visit my neighbours, and receive their visits; but I would not be in haste to return visits. If a gentleman comes to see me, I tell him he does me a great deal of honour. I do not go to see him perhaps for ten weeks; then we are very complaisant to each other. No, Sir, you will have much more influence by giving or lending money where it is wanted, than by hospitality."
On Saturday, May 17, I saw him for a short time. Having mentioned that I had that morning been with old Mr. Sheridan, he remembered their former intimacy with a cordial warmth, and said to me, "Tell Mr. Sheridan I shall be glad to see him and shake hands with him." BOSWELL. "It is to me very wonderful that resentment should be kept up so long." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, it is not altogether resentment that he does not visit me; it is partly falling out of the habit,-partly disgust, such as one has at a drug that has made him sick. Besides, he knows that I laugh at his oratory."
Another day I spoke of one of our friends, of whom he, as well as I, had a very high opinion. He expatiated in his praise; but added, Sir, he is a cursed Whig, a bottomless Whig, as they all are now." I mentioned my expectations from the interest of an eminent person then in power; adding, "But I have no claim but the claim of friendship: however, some people will go a great way from that motive." JOHNSON. "Sir, they will go all the way from that motive." A gentleman talked of retiring. "Never think of that," said Johnson. The gentleman urged, "I should then do no ill." JOHNSON. "Nor no good either. Sir, it would be a civil suicide."
"On Monday, May 26, I found him at tea, and the celebrated Miss Burney, the author of "Evelina" and " Cecilia," with him.
1 Mr. Burke, who, however, proved himself, on the French Revolution, not to be a bottom. less Whig.-C.
2 Probably Lord Mountstuart.-C.
3 Frances, afterwards Mad. D'Arblay, born in July, 1752, had published "Evelina" in 1778, and "Cecilia " in the autumn of 1782.-C.
I asked if there would be any speakers in parliament, if there were no places to be obtained. JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir. Why do you speak here? Either to instruct and entertain, which is a benevolent motive; or for distinction, which is a selfish motive." I mentioned "Cecilia." JOHNSON (with an air of animated satisfaction) Sir, if you talk of 'Cecilia,' talk on."
We talked of Mr. Barry's exhibition of his pictures. JOHNSON. "Whatever the hand may have done, the mind has done its part. There is a grasp of mind there which you find nowhere else."'
I asked whether a man naturally virtuous, or one who has overcome wicked inclinations, is the best. JOHNSON. "Sir, to you, the man who has overcome wicked inclinations is not the best. He has more merit to himself. I would rather trust my money to a man who has no hands, and so a physical impossibility to steal, than to a man of the most honest principles. There is a witty satirical story of Foote. He had a small bust of Garrick placed upon his bureau. 'You may be surprised,' said he, 'that I allow him to be so near my gold; but you will observe he has no hands.'"
On Friday, May 29, being to set out for Scotland next morning, I passed a part of the day with him in more than usual earnestness, as his health was in a more precarious state than at any time when I had parted from him. He, however, was quick and lively, and critical, as usual. I mentioned one who was a very learned man. JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir, he has a great deal of learning; but it never lies straight. There is never one idea by the side of another; 'tis all entangled and then he drives it so awkwardly upon conversation !"
I stated to him an anxious thought, by which a sincere Christian might be disturbed, even when conscious of having lived a good life, so far as is consistent with human infirmity: he might fear that he should afterwards fall away, and be guilty of such crimes as would render all his former religion vain. Could there be, upon this awful subject, such a thing as balancing of accounts? Suppose
1 In Mr. Barry's printed analysis or description of these pictures, he speaks of Johnson's character in the highest terms.
a man who has led a good life for seven years commits an act of wickedness, and instantly dies; will his former good life have any effect in his favour? JOHNSON. "Sir, if a man has led a good life for seven years, and then is hurried by passion to do what is wrong, and is suddenly carried off, depend upon it he will have the reward of his seven years' good life: God will not take a catch of him. Upon this principle Richard Baxter believes that a suicide may be saved. 'If,' says he, 'it should be objected that what I maintain may encourage suicide, I answer, I am not to tell a lie to prevent it.'" BOSWELL. "But does not the text say, 'As the tree falls, so it must lie?" JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir; as the tree falls: but,"after a little pause" that is meant as to the general state of the tree, not what is the effect of a sudden blast."" In short, he interpreted the expression as referring to condition, not to position. The common notion, therefore, seems to be erroneous; and Shenstone's witty remark on divines trying to give the tree a jerk upon a deathbed, to make it lie favourably, is not well founded.
I asked him what works of Richard Baxter's I should read. He said, "Read any of them: they are all good."
He said, "Get as much force of mind as you can. Live within your income. Always have something saved at the end of the year. Let your imports be more than your exports, and you'll never go far wrong."
I assured him, that in the extensive and various range of his acquaintance there never had been any one who had a more sincere respect and affection for him than I had. He said, "I believe it, Sir. Were I in distress, there is no man to whom I should sooner come than to you. I should like to come and have a cottage in your park, toddle about, live mostly on milk, and be taken care of by Mrs. Boswell. She and I are good friends now; are we not ?"
Talking of devotion, he said, "Though it be true that 'God dwelleth not in temples made with hands,' yet in this state of being our minds are more piously affected in places appropriated to divine worship, than in others. Some people have a particular room in their houses where they say their prayers; of which I do not disapprove, as it may animate their devotion."
He embraced me, and gave me his blessing, as usual, when I
was leaving him for any length of time. I walked from this door to-day with a fearful apprehension of what might happen before I returned.
LETTER 434. TO THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM WINDHAM.
"London, May 31, 1783. "SIR,―The bringer of this letter is the father of Miss Philips, a singer who comes to try her voice on the stage at Dublin. Mr. Philips is one of my old friends; and as I am of opinion that neither he nor his daughter will do anything that can disgrace their benefactors, I take the liberty of entreating you to countenance and protect them so far as may be suitable to your station and character, and shall consider myself as obliged by any favourable notice which they shall have the honour of receiving from you. I am, Sir, &c., "SAM. JOHNSON."
The following is another instance of his active benevolence :
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
"June 2, 1783. "DEAR SIR, I have sent you some of my god-son's performances, of which I do not pretend to form any opinion. When I took the liberty of mentioning him to you, I did not know what I have since been told, that Mr. Moser had admitted him among the students of the Academy. What more can be done for him, I earnestly entreat you to consider; for I am very desirous that he should derive some advantage from my connection with him. If you are inclined to see him, I will bring him to wait on you at any time that you shall be pleased to appoint. I am, Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
My anxious apprehensions at parting with him this year proved to be but too well founded; for not long afterwards he had a dreadful stroke of the palsy, of which there are very full and accurate accounts in letters written by himself, to show with what composure of mind and resignation to the Divine Will his steady piety enabled him to behave.
TO MR. EDMUND ALLEN.
"June 17, 1783.
"It has pleased God this morning to deprive me of the powers of speech; and as I do not know but that it may be his further good pleasure to deprive
1 Now the celebrated Mrs. Crouch.-B. She died in October, 1805, æt. 45.-C.
2 Mr. Windham was at this time in Dublin, secretary to the Earl of Northington, then lord lieutenant of Ireland.