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tell his brother.” Boswell. “Certainly his elder brother.” JOHNSON. “ You would tell
friend of a woman's infamy, to prevent his marrying a whore: there is the same reason to tell him of his wife's infidelity, when he is married, to prevent the consequences of imposition. It is a breach of confidence not to tell a friend." BOSWELL. “ Would you tell Mr. ------ ?” (naming a gentleman who assuredly was not in the least danger of such a miserable disgrace, though married to a fine woman.) JOHNSON.“ No, sir; because it would do no good: he is so sluggish, he'd never go to parliament and get through a divorce."
He said of one of our friends, “ He is ruining himself without pleasure. A man who loses at play, or who runs out his fortune at court, makes his estate less, in hopes of making it bigger :” (I am sure of this word, which was often used by him :) " but it is a sad thing to pass through the quagmire of parsimony to the gulf of ruin. To pass over the flowery path of extravagance is very well."
Amongst the numerous prints pasted on the walls of the dining-room at Streatham, was Hogarth’s Modern Midnight Conversation. I asked him what he knew of parson Ford, who makes a conspicuous figure in the riotous groupe. JOHNSON. “Sir, he was my acquaintance and relation, my mother's nephew. He had purchased a living in the country, but not simoniacally. I never saw him but in the country. I have been told he was a man of great parts.; very profligate ; but I never heard he was impious ?." BOSWELL. “ Was there not a story of his ghost having appeared ?" JOHNSON. “Sir, it was believed. A waiter at the Hummums, in which house Ford died, had been absent for some time, and returned, not knowing that Ford was dead. Going down to the cellar, according to the story, he met him; going down again, he met him a second time. When he came up, he asked some of the people of the house what Ford could be doing there. They told him Ford was dead. The waiter took a fever, in which he lay for some time. When he recovered, he said he had a message to deliver to some women from Ford; but he was not to tell what, or to whom. He walked out; he was followed; but somewhere about St. Paul's they lost him. He came back, and said he had delivered the message, and the women exclaimed, · Then we are all undone ! Dr. Pellet, who was not a credulous man, enquired into the truth of this story; and he said, the evidence was irresistible. My wife went to the Hummums: it is a place where people get themselves cupped. I believe she went with intention to hear about this story of Ford. At first they were unwilling to tell her; but, after they had talked to her, she came away satisfied that it was true. To be sure the man had a fever; and this vision may have been the beginning of it. But if the message to the women, and their behaviour upon it, were true as related, there was something supernatural. That rests upon his word; and there it remains.”
9 See Johnson's life of Fenton; and vol. i. p. 22, note, of these memoirs.-ED.
After Mrs. Thrale was gone to bed, Johnson and I sat up late. We resumed sir Joshua Reynolds's argument on the preceding Sunday, that a man would be virtuous though he had no other motive than to preserve his character. Johnson. “ Sir, it is not true; for, as to this world, vice does not hurt a man's character." BOSWELL.
Yes, sir, debauching a friend's wife will.” JOHNSON. “ No, sir. Who thinks the worse of
for it?” BOSWELL. “ Lord
was not his friend.” John“ That is only a circumstance, sir; a slight distinction. He could not get into the house but by lord
A man is chosen knight of the shire, not the less for having debauched ladies." BosWELL. " What, sir, if he debauched the ladies of gentlemen in the county, will not there be a general resentment against him ?" Johnson. “No, sir. He will lose those particular gentlemen; but the rest will not trouble their heads about it,” (warmly.) Boswell.“ Well, sir, I cannot think so." JOHNSON. “ Nay, sir, there is no talking with a man who
will dispute what every body knows, (angrily.) Don't you know this?" BOSWELL. “ No, sir; and I wish to think better of your country than you represent it. I knew in Scotland a gentleman obliged to leave it for debauching a lady; and in one of our counties an earl's brother lost his election, because he had debauched the lady of another earl in that county, and destroyed the peace of a noble family." Still he would not yield. He proceeded :
He proceeded : “ Will you not allow, sir, that vice does not hurt a man's character so as to obstruct his prosperity in life, when you know that
was loaded with wealth and honours; a man who had acquired his fortune by such crimes, that his consciousness of them impelled him to cut his own throat"?" BOSWELL. “ You will recollect, sir, that Dr. Robertson said, he cut his throat because he was weary of still life; little things not being sufficient to move his great mind.” JOHNSON, (very angry.) “ Nay, sir, what stuff is this? You had no more this opinion after Robertson said it than before. I know nothing more offensive than repeating what one knows to be foolish things, by way of continuing a dispute, to see what a man will answer,—to make him your butt!". (angrier still.), BoSWELL. “ My dear sir, I had no such intention as you seem to suspect; I had not indeed. Might not this nobleman have felt every thing 'weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable, as Hamlet says?" Johnson. “Nay, if you are to bring in gabble, I'll talk
I will not, upon my honour.” My readers will decide upon this dispute.
Next morning I stated to Mrs. Thrale at breakfast, before he came down, the dispute of last night as to the influence of character upon success in life.
She said he was certainly wrong; and told me, that a baronet lost an election in Wales, because he bad debauched the sister of
" The shock which this nobleman's nerves had suffered in hard service under a tropical sun, will sufficiently account for his suicide, without having recourse to uncharitable suppositions. This remark we make, fully aware of Burke's splendid declamation that may be brought against us.--Ed.
a gentleman in the county, whom he made one of his daughters invite as her companion at his seat in the country, when his lady and his other children were in London. But she would not encounter Jobnson upon the subject.
I staid all this day with him at Streatham. He talked a great deal, in very good humour.
Looking at Messrs. Dilly's splendid edition of lord Chesterfield's miscellaneous works, he laughed, and said, “Here now are two speeches ascribed to him, both of which were written by me: and the best of it is, they have found out that one is like Demosthenes, and the other like Cicero."
He censured lord Kames's Sketches of the History of Man, for misrepresenting Clarendon's account of the appearance of sir George Villiers's ghost, as if Clarendon were weakly credulous; when the truth is, that Clarendon only says, that the story was upon a better foundation of credit than usually such discourses are founded upon; nay, speaks thus of the person who was reported to have seen the vision, “ The poor man, if he had been at all waking ;" which lord Kames has omitted. He added, “ In this book it is maintained that virtue is natural to man, and that, if we would but consult our own hearts, we should be virtuous. Now, after consulting our own hearts all we can, and with all the helps we have, we find how few of us are virtuous. This is saying a thing which all mankind know not to be true." Boswell. “Is not modesty natural ?" JOHNSON. “I cannot say, sir, as we find no people quite in a state of nature ; but I think, the more they are taught, the more modest they are. The French are a gross, ill-bred, untaught people: a lady there will spit on the floor and rub it with her foot. What I gained by being in France was, learning to be better satisfied with my own country. Time may be employed to more advantage from nineteen to twenty-four, almost in any way than in travelling: when you set travelling against mere negation, against doing nothing, it is better to be sure; but how much more would a young man improve were he to
study during those years ! Indeed, if a young man is wild, and must run after women and bad company, it is better this should be done abroad, as on his return he can break off such connections, and begin at home a new man, with a character to form, and acquaintance to make. How little does travelling supply to the conversation of any man who has travelled : how little to Beauclerk.” Boswell. “What say you to lord
?" JOHNSON. “I never but once heard him talk of what he had seen, and that
was of a large serpent in one of the pyramids of Egypt.” BosWELL.“ Well, I happened to hear him tell the same thing, which made me mention him.”
I talked of a country life ;-JOHNSON. “ Were I to live in the country, I would not devote myself to the acquisition of popularity: I would live in a much better way, much more happily; I would have my time at my own command.” Boswell. “But, sir, is it not a sad thing to be at a distance from all our literary friends ?” JohnSON. “Sir, you will by and by have enough of this conversation, which now delights you so much.”
As he was a zealous friend of subordination, he was at all times watchful to repress the vulgar cant against the manners of the great. “High people, sir," said he, “are the best; take a hundred ladies of quality, you'll find them better wives, better mothers, more willing to sacrifice their own pleasure to their children, than a hundred other women. Tradeswomen (I mean the wives of tradesmen) in the city, who are worth from ten to fifteen thousand pounds, are the worst creatures upon the earth, grossly ignorant, and thinking viciousness fashionable. Farmers, I think, are often worthless fellows. Few lords will cheat; and, if they do, they'll be ashamed of it: farmers cheat, and are not ashamed of it: they have all the sensual vices too of the nobility, with cheating into the bargain. There is as much fornication and adultery amongst farmers as amongst noblemen." Boswell. “ The notion of the world, sir, however is, that the morals of women of quality are worse than those in lower stations.” JOHNSON.