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2778. Elated with the success of my spontaneous exertion to procure material and
Poets.” I hastened down to Mr. Thrale’s at Streatham, where he now was,
It will be seen, that in the following year he had a very agreeable interview with Lord Marchmont, at his Lordship’s
house; and this very afternoon he foon forgot any fretfulness, and fell into
; conversation as usual.
I mentioned a reflection having been thrown out against four Peers for having presumed to rise in opposition to the opinion of the twelve Judges, in a cause in the House of Lords, as if that were indecent. Johnson. “ Sir, there is no ground for censure. The Peers are Judges themselves : and supposing them really to be of a different opinion, they might from duty be in opposition to the Judges, who were there only to be consulted.”
In this observation I fully concurred with him; for; unquestionably, all the Peers are vested with the highest judicial powers; and, when they are confident that they understand a cause, are not obliged, nay ought not to acquiesce in the opinion of the ordinary law Judges, or even in that of thofe who from their studies and experience are called the Law Lords. I consider the Peers in general as I do a fury, who ought to listen with respectful attention to the sages of the law; but, if after hearing them, they have a firm opinion of their own, are bound, as honest men, to decide accordingly. Nor is it so difficult for them to understand even law questions, as is generally thought; provided they will bestow sufficient attention upon them. This observation was made by my honoured relation the late Lord Cathcart, who had spent his life in camps and courts; yet afured methat he could form a clear opinion upon most of the causes that came before the House of Lords,, 4 as they were so well enucleated in the Cases."
Mrs. Thralė told us, that a curious clergyman of our acquaintance had discovered a licentious stanza, which Pope had originally in his “ Universal: Prayer," before the stanza
" What conscience dictates to be done,
« Or warns us not to do, &c..
It was this:
" Can sins of moment claim the rod
“ Of everlasting fires ?
« Which Nature's self inspires ?”
Boswell. “ In that stanza of Pope's, rod of fires,' is certainly a bad metaphor.” Mrs. Thrale. “ And «fins of moment is a faulty expression ;,
for its true import is momentous, which cannot be intended.” Johnson, “ It must have been written of moments. Of moment, is momentous; of moments, momentary. I warrant you, however, Pope wrote this stanza, and some friend struck it out. Boileau wrote fome such thing, and Arnaud struck it out, saying,
« Vous gagnerez deux ou trois impies, et perdrez je ne sais combien des honnettes gens. These fellows want to say a daring thing, and don't know how to go about it. Mere poets know no more of fundamental principles than" Here he was interrupted somehow. Mrs. Thrale mentioned Dryden. JohnsOX. “ He puzzled himself about predestination. How foolish was it in Pope to give all his friendship to Lords, who thought they honoured him by being with him ; and to choose such Lords as Burlington, and Cobham, and Bolingbroke? Bathurst was negative, a pleasing man ; and I have heard no ill of Marchmont: and then always saying, I do not value you for being a Lord;' which was a sure proof that he did. I never say, I do not value Boswell more for being born to an estate, because I do not care.” Boswell. “ Nor for being a Scotchman?” JOHNSON. “ Nay, Sir, I do value you more for being a Scotchman. You are a Scotchman without the faults of Scotchmen. You would not have been so valuable as you are, had you not been a Scotchman.”
Talking of divorces, I asked if Othello's doctrine was not plausible:
“ He who is robb’d, not wanting what is stolen,
Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale joined against this. Johnson. “Alk
“ Ask any man if he'd wish not to know of such an injury.” Boswell.“ Would you tell your friend to make him unhappy ?” Johnson. “ Perhaps, Sir, I should not; but that would be from prudence on my own account. A man would tell his father.” Boswell. “ Yes; because he would not have spurious children to get any share of the family inheritance.” Mrs. THRALE. “ Or he would tell his brother.” Boswell. “ Certainly his elder brother.”
. Johnson. “ You would tell your 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 alsuredly 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.
Amongst the numerous prints pasted on the walls of the dining-room at
After Mrs. Thrale was gone to bed, Johnson and I sat up láte. We resumed
Sir. Who thinks the worse of
for it ??” Boswell. " Lord was not his friend.” Johnson. “ That is only a circumstance, Sir; a Night distinction. He could not get into the house but by Lord A man is chosen Knight of the fire, not the less for having debauched ladies,” Boswell."
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 loft his election, because he had debauched the lady of another Earl in that county, and broken the peace of a noble family." Still he would not yield. 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 no more.
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 had debauched the fister of 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 Johnson upon the subject.