Imagens das páginas

stones, which is the case when enemies are present. I think this is a pretty good image, Sir." JOHNSON: "Sir, it is one of the happiest I ever have heard."

The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in hearty laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our friends. BOSWELL: "Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to laugh at a man to his face?" JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, that depends upon the man and the thing. If it is a slight man, and a slight thing, you may; for you take nothing valuable from him."

He said, "I read yesterday Dr. Blair's sermon on Devotion, from the text Cornelius, a devout man.' His doctrine is the best limited, the best expressed; there is the most warmth without fanaticism, the most rational transport. There is one part of it which I disapprove, and I'd have him correct it; which is, that, he who does not feel joy in religion is far from the kingdom of heaven!' There are many good men whose fear of GOD predominates over their love. It may discourage. It was rashly said. A noble sermon it is, indeed. I wish Blair would come over to the Church of England."

When Mr. Langton returned to us, the "flow of talk" went on. An eminent author being mentioned:-JOHNSON: "He is not a pleasant man. His conversation is neither instructive nor brilliant. He does not talk as if impelled by any fulness of knowledge or vivacity of imagination. His conversation is like that of any other sensible man. He talks with no wish either to inform or to hear, but only because he thinks it does not become [Dr. Robertson] to sit in a company and say nothing."

Mr. Langton having repeated the anecdote of Addison having dis tinguished between his powers in conversation and in writing, by saying, "I have only ninepence in my pocket; but I can draw for a thousand pounds: "-JOHNSON: "He had not that retort ready, Sir; he had prepared it beforehand." LANGTON (turning to me) : A fine surmise. Set a thief to catch a thief."



Johnson called the East Indians barbarians. BOSWELL: "You will except the Chinese, Sir?" JOHNSON: "No, Sir." BOSWELL: Have they not arts?" JOHNSON: "They have pottery." BOSWELL: "What do you say to the written characters of their language?" JOHNSON: "Sir they have not an alphabet. They have not been able to form what all other nations have formed." BOSWELL: "There is more learning in their language than in any other, from the immense number of their characters." JOHNSON: "It is only more difficult from its rudeness; as there is more labour in hewing down a tree with a stone than with an axe.'


He said, "I have been reading Lord Kaimes's 'Sketches of the

History of Man.' In treating of severity of punishment, he mentions that of Madame Lapouchin, in Russia; but he does not give it fairly; for I have looked at Chappe d'Auteroche,1 from whom he has taken it. He stops where it is said that the spectators thought her innocent, and leaves out what follows,-that she nevertheless was guilty. Now this is being as culpable as one can conceive, to misrepresent fact in a book ;2 and for what motive? It is like one of those lies which people tell, one cannot see why. The woman's life was spared, and no punishment was too great for the favourite of an Empress who had conspired to dethrone her mistress." BOSWELL: "He was only giving a picture of the lady in her sufferings." JOHNSON: "Nay, don't endeavour to palliate this. Guilt is a principal feature in the picture.- -Kaimes is puzzled with a question that puzzled me when I was a very young man. Why is it that the interest of money is lower when money is plentiful; for five pounds has the same proportion of value to a hundred pounds when money is plentiful, as when it is scarce? A lady explained it to me. 'It is,' said she, 'because when money is plentiful there are so many more who have money to lend, that they bid down one another. Many have then a hundred pounds; and one says, Take mine rather than another's, and you shall have it at four per cent."" BOSWELL: "Does Lord Kaimes decide the question?" JOHNSON: "I think he leaves it as he found it." BOSWELL: "This must have been an extraordinary lady who instructed you, Sir. May I ask who she was?

1 "Voyage en Sibérie," par M. l'Abbé Chappe d'Auteroche, 3 vols. fol., 1761.-ED.

2 On consulting the two authorities above mentioned, we find that Lord Kaimes (b. i., sketch v.) has given the details of this barbarous punishment almost in the very words of the Abbé Chappe, with the exception of one slight omission, which Johnson considers the height of culpability, but which appears quite unnecessary to the story. As the narrative, however, is short, and illustrative of early Russian barbarism, it is worth extracting. The omitted passage, of which Johnson so bitterly complains, is supplied within brackets:

"No traveller who visited St. Petersburgh during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth can be ignorant of Madame Lapouchin, the great ornament of that Court. Her intimacy with a foreign Ambassador having brought her under suspicion of plotting against the government, she was condemned to undergo the punishment of the knout. At the place of execution she appeared in a genteel undress, which heightened her beauty. Of whatever indiscretion she might have been guilty, the sweetness of her countenance and her composure left not the spectators the slightest suspicion of guilt. [Abbé Chappe here remarks (to quote his own words): Tous ceux que j'ai consultés par la suite m'ont cependant assuré qu'elle étoit coupable.'] Her youth also, her beauty, her life and spirit pleaded for her, but all in vain; she was deserted by all, and abandoned to surly executioners, whom she beheld with astonishment, seeming to doubt whether such preparations were intended for her. The cloak that covered her bosom being pulled off, modesty took the alarm, and made her start back; she turned pale, and burst into tears. One of the executioners stripped her naked to the waist, seized her with both hands, and threw her on his back, raising her some inches from the ground. The other executioner, laying hold of her delicate limbs with his rough fists, put her in a posture for receiving the punishment. Then, laying hold of the knout, a sort of whip made of a leathern strap, he, with a single stroke, tore off a slip of skin from the neck downward, repeating his strokes till all the skin of her back was cut off in small slips. The executioner finished his task with cutting out her tongue! after which she was banished to Siberia."-ED.

JOHNSON: "Molly Aston,' Sir, the sister of those ladies with whom you dined at Lichfield.- -I shall be at home to-morrow." BOSWELL: "Then let us dine by ourselves at the Mitre, to keep up the old custom 'the custom of the manor,' custom of the Mitre." JOHNSON: “Sir, so it shall be."

On Saturday, May 9, we fulfilled our purpose of dining by ourselves at the Mitre, according to old custom. There was, on these occasions, a little circumstance of kind attention to Mrs. Williams, which must not be omitted. Before coming out, and leaving her to dine alone, he gave her her choice of a chicken, a sweetbread, or any other little nice thing, which was carefully sent to her from the tavern, ready-drest.


Our conversation to-day, I know not how, turned, I think for the only time at any length during our long acquaintance, upon the sensual intercourse between the sexes, the delight of which he ascribed chiefly to imagination. "Were it not for imagination, Sir," said he, a man would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a duchess. But such is the adventitious charm of fancy, that we find men who have violated the best principles of society, and ruined their fame and their fortune, that they might possess a woman of rank." It would not be proper to record the particulars of such a conversation in moments of unreserved frankness, when nobody was present on whom it could have any hurtful effect. That subject, when philosophically treated, may surely employ the mind in a curious discussion, and as innocently as anatomy; provided that those who do treat it keep clear of inflammatory incentives.

"From grave to gay, from lively to severe," we were soon engaged in very different speculation, humbly and reverently considering and wondering at the universal mystery of all things, as our imperfect faculties can now judge of them. "There are," said he, " innumerable questions to which the inquisitive mind can in this state receive no

Johnson had an extraordinary admiration of this lady, notwithstanding she was a violent Whig. In answer to her high-flown speeches for Liberty, he addressed to her the following Epigram, of which I presume to offer a translation:

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"Liber ut esse velim, suasisti, pulcra Maria,
Ut manean liber, pulcra Maria, vale."
(Adieu, Maria! since you'd have me free;
For who beholds thy charms a slave must be.)

A correspondent of "The Gentleman's Magazine," who subscribes himself SCIOLUS, to whom I am indebted for several excellent remarks, observes, "The turn of Dr. Johnson's lines to Miss Aston, whose Whig principles he had been combating, appears to me to be taken from an ingenious epigram in 'The Menagiana' (vol. iii. p. 367, edit. 1716), on a young lady who appeared at a masquerade, habillé en Jesuite, during the fierce contentions of the followers of Molinos and Jansenius concerning free-will:

"On s'étonne ici que Caliste
Ait pris l'habit de Moliniste,

Puisque cette jeune beauté
Ote a chacun sa liberté,

N'est ce pas une Janseniste?"-BOSWELL.

answer: Why do you and I exist? Why was this world created? Since it was to be created, why was it not created sooner ?"

On Sunday, May 10, I supped with him at Mr. Hoole's, with Sir Joshua Reynolds. I have neglected the memorial of this evening, so as to remember no more of it than two particulars; one, that he strenuously opposed an argument by Sir Joshua, that virtue was preferable to vice, considering this life only; and that a man would be virtuous were it only to preserve his character; and that he expressed much wonder at the curious formation of the bat, a mouse with wings, saying, that it was almost as strange a thing in physiology, as if the fabulous dragon could be seen.

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ON Tuesday, May 12, I waited on the Earl of Marchmont, to know if

his lordship would favour Dr. Johnson with information concerning Pope, whose Life he was about to write. Johnson had not flattered himself with the hopes of receiving any civility from this nobleman : for he said to me, when I mentioned Lord Marchmont as one who could tell him a great deal about Pope, "Sir, he will tell me nothing." I had the honour of being known to his lordship, and applied to him of myself, without being commissioned by Johnson. His lordship behaved in the most polite and obliging manner, promised to tell all he

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