Page images

Mrs. Knowles affected to complain that men had much more liberty 1778. allowed them than women. Johnson. “Why, Madam, women have all Ætat. Og

69. the liberty they should wish to have. We have all the labour and the danger, and the women all the advantage. We go to sea, we build houses, we do every thing, in short, to pay our court to the women." Mrs. Knowles. “ The Doctor reasons very wittily, but not convincingly. Now, take the instance of building; the mason's wife, if she is ever seen in liquor, is ruined. The mason may get himself drunk as often as he pleases, with little loss of character; nay, may let his wife and children starve." JOHNSON. “ Madam, you must consider, if the mason does get himself drunk, and let his wife and children starve, the parish will oblige him to find security for their maintenance. We have different modes of restraining evil. Stocks for the men, a ducking-stool for women, and a pound for beasts. If we require more perfection from women than from ourselves, it is doing them honour. And women have not the same temptations that we have: they may always live in virtuous company ; men must mix in the world indiscriminately. If a woman has no inclination to do what is wrong, being secured from it is no restraint to her. I am at liberty to walk into the Thames ; but if I were to try it, my friends would restrain me in Bedlam, and I should be obliged to them.” Mrs. Knowles. “Still, Doctor, I cannot help thinking it a hardship that more indulgence is allowed to men than to women. It gives a superiority to men, to which I do not see how they are entitled.” Johnson. " It is plain, Madam, one or other must have the superiority. As Shakspeare says, * If two men ride on horseback, one must ride behind.” DILLY. "I suppose, Sir, Mrs. Knowles would have them to ride in panniers, one on each side.” Johnson. “ Then, Sir, the horse would throw them both." Mrs. Knowles. “ Well, I hope that in another world the sexes will be equal.” BoswelL. “ That is being too ambitious, Madam. We might as

BOSWELL well desire to be equal with the angels. We shall all, I hope, be happy in a future state, but we must not expect to be all happy in the fame degree. It is enough if we be happy according to our several capacities. A worthy carman will get to heaven as well as Sir Isaac Newton. Yet, though equally good, they will not have the same degrees of happiness.” Johnson. “ Probably not.”

Upon this subject I had once before founded him, by mentioning the late Reverend Mr. Brown, of Utrecht's image; that a great and finall glass, though equally full, did not hold an equal quantity; which he threw out to refute David Hume's saying, that a little miss, going to dance at a ball, in a VOL. II.


[ocr errors]


Ætat. 69.

[ocr errors]


fine new dress, was as happy as a great oratour, after having made an elo. La quent and applauded speech. After some thought, Johnson said, “I come over

to the parfon.” As an initance of coincidence of thinking, Mr. Dilly told me, that Dr. King, a late dissenting minister in London, said to him, upon the happiness in a future state of good men of different capacities, “ A pail does not hold so much as a tub; but, if it be equally full, it has no reason to complain. Every Saint in heaven will have as much happiness as he can hold.” Mr. Dilly thought this a clear, though a familiar illustration of the phrase, “ One ftar differeth from another in brightness.”

Dr. Mayo having asked Johnson's opinion of Soame Jennyns's “ View of the internal Evidence of the Christian Religion ;"- Johnson. “I think it a pretty book; not very theological indeed; and there seems to be an affectation of ease and carelesiness, as if it were not suitable to his character to be very serious about the matter.” Boswell. “He may have intended this to introduce his book the better among genteel people, who might be unwilling to read too grave a treatise. There is a general levity in the age. We have physicians now with bag-wigs ; may we not have airy divines, at least somewhat less solemn in their appearance than they used to be?” Johnson.

Jennyns might mean as you say.” Boswell. “ You should like his book, Mrs. Knowles, as it maintains, as you friends do, that courage is not a Christian virtue." Mrs. Knowles. “ Yes, indeed, I like him there; but I cannot agree with him, that friendship is not a Christian virtue.” Johnson. “ Why, Madam, strictly speaking, he is right. All friendship is preferring the interest of a friend, to the .neglect, or, perhaps, against the interest of others; so that an old Greek said, “He that has, friends has no friend. Now Christianity recommends universal benevolence, to consider all men as our brethren, which is contrary to the virtue of friendship, as described by the ancient philosophers. Surely, Madam, your fect must approve of this ; for, you call all men friends.Mrs. Knowles. “ We are commanded to do good to all men, but especially to them who are of the household of Faith.” Johnson. “Well, Madam. The household of Faith is wide enough.” Mrs. KNOWLES. “ But, Doctor, our Saviour had twelve Apostles, yet there was one whom he loved. John was called the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Johnson. (with eyes sparkling benignantly) “ Very well, indeed, Madam. You have said very well.” Boswell. “ A fine application. Pray, Sir, had you ever thought of it?” Johnson. “I had not, Sir.”

From this amiable and pleasing subject, he, I know not how or why, made a sudden transition to one upon which he was a violent aggrefor; for he.


[ocr errors]


Ætat. 69.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

said, “ I am willing to love all mankind, except an American :" and his in Aam-
mable corruption bursting into horrid fire, he “ breathed out threatenings and
Naughter ;” calling them, “Rascals-Robbers---Pirates;” and exclaiming,
he'd “ burn and destroy them.” Miss Seward, looking to him with mild but
Iteady astonishment, faid, “ Sir, this is an instance that we are always most
violent against those whom we have injured.”-He was irritated still more
by this delicate and keen reproach; and roared out another tremendous volley,
which one might fancy could be heard across the Atlantick. During this
tempest I sat in great uneasiness, lamenting his heat of temper; till, by
degrees, I diverted his attention to other topicks.
Dr. Maro. (to Dr. Johnson) “ Pray, Sir, have you read Edwards, of

New England, on Grace?” Johnson. “ No, Sir.” Boswell.“ It puzzled
me so much as to the freedom of the human will, by stating, with
wonderful acute ingenuity, our being actuated by a series of motives which
we cannot resist, that the only relief I had was to forget it.” Mayo. “But
he makes the proper distinction between moral and physical necessity.”
Boswell. “Alas, Sir, they come both to the same thing. You may be
bound as hard by chains when covered by leather, as when the iron appears.
The argument for the moral necessity of human actions is always, I observe,
fortified by supposing universal prescience to be one of the attributes of the
Deity.” Johnson. “ You are surer that you are free, than you are of

prescience; you are surer that you can lift up your finger or not as you please,
than you are of any conclusion from a deduction of reasoning. But let us
consider a little the objection from prescience. It is certain I am either to
go home to-night or not; that does not prevent my freedom.”

• That it is certain you are either to go home or not does not, prevent your
freedom; because the liberty of choice between the two is compatible with
that certainty. But if one of these events be certain now, you have no future
power of volition. If it be certain you are to go home to-night, you must go
home.” Johnson. “ If I am well acquainted with a man, I can judge with
great probability how he will act in any case, without his being restrained
by my judging. God may have this probability increased to certainty."
Boswell. “ When it is increased to certainty freedom ceases, because that
cannot be certainly foreknown which is not certain at the time, but if it be
certain at the time, it is a contradiction in terms to maintain that there can be
afterwards any contingency dependent upon the exercise of will or any thing
else.” Johnson.“ All theory is against the freedom of the will; all expe-
rience for it.”—I did not push the subject any farther. I was glad to find


[ocr errors]

G g 2


Ætal. 69.

him so nild in discussing a question of the most abstract nature, which is involved with theological tenets, which he generally would not suffer to be in any degree opposed .

He as usual defended luxury; “You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury than by giving it; for by spending it in luxury you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it you keep them idle. I own, indeed, there may be more virtue in giving it immediately in charity than in spending it in luxury; though there may be a pride in that too.” Miss Seward asked if this was not Mandeville's doctrine of “private vices publick benefits." Johnson. “ The fallacy of that book is, that Mandeville defines neither vices nor benefits. He reckons among vices every thing that gives pleasure. He takes the narrowest system of morality, monastick morality, which holds pleasure itself to be a vice, such as eating falt with our fish, because it makes it taste better; and he reckons wealth as a publick benefit, which is by no means always true. Pleasure of itself is not a vice. Having a garden, which we all know to be perfectly innocent, is a great pleasure. At the same time, in this state of being there are many pleasures vices, which however are so immediately agreeable that we can hardly abstain from them. The happiness of Heaven will be, that pleasure and virtue will be perfectly consistent. Mandeville puts the case of a man who gets drunk at an alehouse; and says it is a publick benefit, because so much money is got by it to the publick. But it must be considered, that all the good gained by this, through the gradation of alehouse-keeper, brewer, maltster, and farmer, is overbalanced by the evil caused to the man and his family by his getting drunk. This is the way to try what is vicious, by ascertaining whether more evil than good is produced by it upon the whole, which is the case in all vice. It may happen that good is produced by vice; but not as vice; for instance, a robber may take money from its owner, and give it to one who will make a better use of it. Here is good produced; but not by the robbery as robbery, but as translation of property. I read Mandeville forty, or I believe fifty years ago. He did not puzzle me; he opened my views into real life very much. No, it is clear that the happiness of society depends on virtue. In Sparta theft was allowed by general consent; theft, therefore, was there not a crime,


• If any of my readers are difturbed by this thorny question, I beg leave to secommend to them Ierter 69 of Montesquieu's Lettres Perfannes; and the late Mr. John Palmer of Islington's Answer to Dr. Prieftley's mechanical arguments for what he calls “ Philosophical Necessity.”


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


but then there was no fecurity; and what a life must they have had when 7778.
there was no security. Without truth there must be a dissolution of society. Ætat. 69.
As it is, there is so little truth that we are almost afraid to trust our ears;
but how should we be, if falsehood were multiplied ten times ? Society is held
together by communication and information; and I remember this remark
of Sir Thomas Brown's, 'Do the devils lie? No; for then Hell could
not subsist.”

Talking of Miss , a literary lady, he said, “I was obliged to speak
to Miss Reynolds, to let her know that I desired she would not flatter me
so much.” Somebody now observed, “She flatters Garrick.” Johnson. “She
is in the right to flatter Garrick. She is in the right for two reasons ; first,
because she has the world with her, who have been praising Garrick these
thirty years; and secondly, because she is rewarded for it by Garrick. Why
should she fatter me? I can do nothing for her. Let her carry her praise to
a better market. (Then turning to Mrs. Knowles) You, Madam, have been
Aattering me all the evening; I wish you would give Boswell a little now.
If you knew his merit as well as I do, you would say a great deal; he is the
best travelling companion in the world.”

Somebody mentioned the Reverend Mr. Mason's prosecution of Mr. Murray, the bookseller, for having inserted in a collection of “ Gray's Poems,”” only fifty lines, of which Mr. Mason had still the exclusive property, under the statute of Queen Anne ; and that Mr. Mason had persevered, notwith-standing his being requested to name his own terms of compensation Johnson signified his displeasure at Mr. Mason's conduct very strongly; but added, by way of shewing that he was not surprized at it, “ Mason's a Whig.” Mrs. Knowles. (not hearing distinctly). What! a Prig, Sir?” Johnson.

JOHNSON “ Worse, Madam ; a Whig! But he is both.”

I expressed a horrour at the thought of death. Mrs. Knowles. “Nay,
thou should'st not have a horrour for what is the gate of life.” JOHNSON:
(standing upon the hearth rolling about, with a serious, solemn, and some-
what gloomy air) “ No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension.”
Mrs. Knowles. “ The Scriptures tell us, · The righteous shall have hope in

his death.” Johnson. “ Yes, Madam; that is, he shall not have despair.


But, consider, his hope of salvation must be founded on the terms on which it
is promised, that the mediation of our Saviour shall be applied to us, namely;
obedience; and where obedience has failed, then as suppletary to it, repentance.



• See “ A Letter to W. Mason, A. M. from J. Murray, Bookseller in London ;" 2d edition,




« PreviousContinue »