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it; but not on sufficient authority. He did not take time enough to examine the girl. It was at Newcastle, where the ghost was said to have appeared to a young woman several times, mentioning something about the right to an old house, advising application to be made to an attorney, which was done; and at the same time saying the attorney would do nothing, which proved to be the fact. “This,' says John, is a proof that a ghost knows our thoughts.' Now, (laughing,) it is not necessary to know our thoughts, to tell that an attorney will sometimes do nothing. Charles Wesley, who is a more stationary man, does not believe the story. I am sorry that John did not take more pains to enquire into the evidence for it.” Miss SEWARD, (with an incredulous smile.) “What, sir! about a ghost ?" JOHNSON, (with solemn vehemence.) “ Yes, madam: this is a question which, after five thousand years, is yet undecided ; a question, whether in theology or philosophy, one of the most important that can come before the human understanding 3."
Mrs. Knowles mentioned, as a proselyte to quakerism, Miss
a young lady well known to Dr. Johnson, for whom he had shown much affection; while she ever had, and still retained, a great respect for him. Mrs. Knowles at the same time took an opportunity of letting him know, “ that the amiable young creature was sorry at finding that he was offended at her leaving the church of England and embracing a simpler faith ;" and, in the gentlest and most persuasive manner, solicited his kind indulgence for what was sincerely a matter of conscience. JOHNSON, (frowning very angrily.) “ Madam, she is an odious wench. She could not have any proper conviction that it was her duty to change her religion, which is the most important of all subjects, and should be studied with all care, and with all the helps we can get. She knew no more of the church which she left, and that which she embraced, than she did of the difference between the Copernican and Ptolemaick systems." Mrs. KNOWLES. “She
& See note to a former page of this volume, and the references.---Ed.
had the New Testament before her.” JOHNSON. “Madam, she could not understand the New Testament, the most difficult book in the world, for which the study of a life is required." MRS. KNOWLES. “ It is clear as to essentials." Johnson. “ But not as to controversial points. The heathens were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up; but we ought not, without very strong conviction indeed, to desert the religion in which we have been educated. That is the religion given you, the religion in which it may be said Providence has placed you. If you live conscientiously in that religion, you may be safe. But errour is dangerous indeed, if you err when you choose a religion for yourself.” Mrs. KNOWLES. then go by implicit faith?” JOHNSON. “ Why, madam, the greatest part of our knowledge is implicit faith ; and as to religion, have we heard all that a disciple of Confucius, all that a mahometan, can say for himself ?" then rose again into passion, and attacked the young proselyte in the severest terms of reproach, so that both the ladies seemed to be much shocked h.
We remained together till it was pretty late. Notwithstanding occasional explosions of violence, we were all delighted upon the whole with Johnson. I compared him at this time to a warm West Indian climate, where you
have a bright sun, quick vegetation, luxuriant foliage, luscious
6. Must we
Mrs. Knowles, not satisfied with the fame of her needlework, the “ sutile pictures” mentioned by Johnson, in which she has indeed displayed much dexterity, nay, with the fame of reasoning better than women generally do, as I have fairly shown her to have done, communicated to me a dialogue of considerable length, which, after many years had elapsed, she wrote down as having passed between Dr. Johnson and her at this interview. As I had not the least recollection of it, and did not find the smallest trace of it in my record taken at the time, I could not, in consistency with my firm regard to authenticity, insert it in my work. It has, however, been published in the Gentleman's Magazine for June, 1791. It chiefly relates to the principles of the sect called quakers; and no doubt the lady appears to have greatly the advantage of Dr. Johnson in argument as well as expression. From what I have now stated, and from the internal evidence of the paper itself, any one who may have the curiosity to peruse it, will judge whether it was wrong in me to reject it, however willing to gratify Mrs. Knowles.- BOSWELL.
fruits; but where the same heat sometimes produces thunder, lightning, and earthquakes in a terrible degree.
April 17th, being Good Friday, I waited on Johnson as usual. I observed at breakfast, that althongh it was a part of his abstemious discipline on this most solemn fast to take no milk in his tea, yet when Mrs. Desmoulins inadvertently poured it in, he did not reject it. I talked of the strange indecision of mind, and imbecility in the common occurrences of life, which we may observe in some people. JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I am in the habit of getting others to do things for me." BOSWELL. “ What, sir ! have you that weakness?" JOHNSON. “Yes, sir. But I always think afterwards I should have done better for myself."
I told him, that at a gentleman's house where there was thought to be such extravagance or bad management that he was living much beyond bis income, his lady had objected to the cutting of a pickled mango, and that I had taken an opportunity to ask the price of it, and found it was only two shillings; so here was a very poor saving. JOHNSON. “Sir, that is the blundering economy of a narrow understanding. It is stopping one hole in a sieve."
I expressed some inclination to publish an account of my travels upon the continent of Europe, for which I had a variety of materials collected. JOHNSON. “I do not say, sir, you may not publish your travels; but I give you my opinion, that you would lessen yourself by it. What can you tell of countries so well known as those
the continent of Europe which you have visited ?” BosWELL." But I can give an entertaining narrative, with many incidents, anecdotes, jeux d'esprit, and remarks, so as to make very pleasant reading.” JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, most moderu travellers in Europe who have published their travels, have been laughed at: I would not have you added to the numberi. The world is now not contented to be merely entertained by a traveller's narrative; they want to learn something. Now some of my friends asked me why I did not give some account of my travels in France. The reason is plain: intelligent readers had seen more of France than I had. You might have liked my travels in France, and the club might have liked them; but, upon the whole, there would have been more ridicule than good produced by them.” Boswell. “I cannot agree with you, sir.
1 I believe, however, I shall follow my own opinion; for the world has shown a very flattering partiality to my writings on many occasions.—Boswell.
Johnson, on other occasions, encouraged Boswell to publish his travels, as the readers of these memoirs must have observed in many passages.-Ed.
sir. People would like to read what you say of any thing. Suppose a face has been painted by fifty painters before, still we love to see it done by sir Joshua." JOHNSON. “ True, sir; but sir Joshua cannot paint a face when he has not time to look on it.” BosWELL. Sir, a sketch of any sort by him is valuable. And, sir, to talk to you in your own style,” raising my voice, and shaking my head, “ you should have given us your travels in France. I am sure I am right, and there's an end on't.”
I said to him that it was certainly true, as my friend Dempster had observed in his letter to me upon the subject, that a great part of what was in his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland had been in his mind before he left London. JOHNSON. “ Why yes, sir, the topicks were; and books of travels will be good in proportion to what a man has previously in his mind; his knowing what to observe ; his power of contrasting one mode of life with another. As the Spanish proverb says, “He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.' So it is in travelling; a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge." BOSWELL. “The proverb, I suppose, sir, means, he must carry a large stock with him to trade with.” JOHNSON Yes, sir.”
It was a delightful day: as we walked to St. Clement's church, I again remarked that Fleet-street was the most cheerful scene in the world. “ Fleet-street," said I, “ is in my mind more delightful than Tempe.” JỌHNSON. “Aye, sir; but let it be compared with Mull."
There was a very numerous congregation to-day at St.
Clement's church, which Dr. Jobnson said he observed with pleasure.
And now I am to give a pretty full account of one of the most curious incidents in Johnson's life, of which he himself has made the following minute on this day: “In my return from church, I was accosted by Edwards, an old fellow-collegian, who had not seen me since 1729. He knew me, and asked if I remembered one Edwards. I did not at first recollect the name, but gradually, as we walked along, recovered it, and told him a conversation that had passed at an alebouse between us. My purpose is to continue our acquaintancek.”
It was in Butcher-row that this meeting happened. Mr. Edwards, who was a decent-looking elderly man, in grey clothes, and a wig of many curls, accosted Johnson with familiar confidence, knowing who he was ; while Johnson returned his salutation with a courteous formality, as to a stranger. But as soon as Edwards had brought to his recollection their having been at Pembroke college together nine-and-forty years ago, he seemed much pleased, asked where he lived, and said he should be glad to see him in Bolt-court. EDWARDS. “Ah, sir! we are old men now." JOHNSON, (who never liked to think of being old.) “Don't let us discourage one another.” EDWARDS. Why, doctor, you look stout and hearty: I am happy to see you so; for the newspapers told us you were very ill.” JohnSON. “ Aye, sir, they are always telling lies of us old fellows.”
Wishing to be present at more of so singular a conversation as that between two fellow-collegians, who had lived forty years in London without ever having chanced to meet, I whispered to Mr. Edwards that Dr. Johnson was going home, and that he had better accompany him now. So Edwards walked along with us, I eagerly assisting to keep up the conversation. Mr. Edwards informed Dr. Johnson that he had practised long as a solicitor in chan
k Prayers and Meditations, vol. ix. p. 262.