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would tell me sincerely in what he thought my life was faulty. Sir, he brought me a sheet of paper, on which he had written down several texts of Scripture recommending christian charity. And when I questioned him what occasion I had given for such an animadversion, all that he could say amounted to this,—that I sometimes contradicted people in conversation. Now what harm does it do to any man to be contradicted ?” BoswELL. “I suppose he meant the manner of doing it; roughly and harshly.' Johnson. “And who is the worse for that?” BOSWELL. “ It hurts people of weaker nerves.' JOHNSON. “I know no such weak-nerved people.” Mr. Burke, to whom I related this conference, said, “ It is well if, when a man comes to die, he has nothing heavier upon his conscience than having been a little rough in conversation.”
Johnson, at the time when the paper was presented to him, though at first pleased with the attention of his friend, whom he thanked in an earnest manner, soon exclaimed in a loud and angry tone, “What is your drift, sir ?"
Sir Joshua Reynolds pleasantly observed, that it was a scene for a comedy, to see a penitent get into a violent passion and belabour his confessor. After all, I cannot but be of opinion, that as Mr. Langton was seriously requested by Dr. Johnson to mention what appeared to him erroneous in the character of his friend, he was bound as an honest man to intimate what he really thought, which he certainly did in the most delicate manner; so that Johnson himself, when in a quiet frame of mind, was pleased with it. The texts suggested are now before me, and I shall quote a few of them. “ Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”—Matt. v. 5.
“ I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you
that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love." Ephes. v. 1, 2.
“ And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”— Col. iii. 14.
“ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, is not easily provoked.”—1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5.
I have preserved no more of his conversation at the times when I saw him during the rest of this month, till Sunday, the 30th of May, when I met him in the evening at Mr. Hoole's, where there was a large company both of ladies and gentlemen. Sir James Johnston happened to say that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. JOHNSON. “ Nay, sir, argument is ar
, gument. You cannot help paying regard to their arguments if they are good. If it were testimony, you might disregard it, if you knew that it were purchased. There is a beautiful image in Bacon upon this subject : testimony is like an arrow shot from a long bow; the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a crossbow, which has equal force though shot by a child ?”
i Dr. Johnson's memory deceived him. The passage referred to is not Bacon's, but Boyle's, and may be found, with a slight variation, in Johnson's Dictionary, under the word Crossbow.-So happily selected are the greater part of the examples in that incomparable work, that if the most striking passages found in it were collected by one of our modern book-makers, under the title of The Beauties of Johnson's Dictionary, they would form a very pleasing and popular volume.-MALONE.
3 [The anecdote, as Mr. Markland observes, is somewhat differently told by Dr. Moore in his life of Smollett.—“In Boswell's Life of Johnson, mention "ois made of an observation of his respecting the manner in which argument ought “to be rated. As Mr. Boswell has not recorded this with his usual precision, “ and as I was present at Mr. Hoole's at the time mentioned by Mr. Boswell, Í “shall here insert what passed, of which I have a perfect recollection. Mention
He had dined that day at Mr. Hoole’s, and Miss Helen Maria Williams being expected in the evening, Mr. Hoole put into his hands her beautiful “Ode on the Peace 1.” Johnson read it over, and when this elegant and accomplished young lady' was presented to him, he took her by the hand in the most courteous manner, and repeated the finest stanza of her poem. This was the most delicate and pleasing compliment he could pay. Her respectable friend, Dr. Kippis, from whom I had this anecdote, was standing by, and was not a little gratified.
Miss Williams told me, that the only other time she was fortunate enough to be in Dr. Johnson's company, he asked her to sit down by him, which she did; and upon her inquiring how he was, he
“having been made that counsel were to be heard at the bar of the House of “Commons, one of the company at Mr. Hoole's asked Sir James Johnston if “he intended to be present. He answered, that he believed he should not, be
cause he paid little regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons. • Wherefore do you pay little regard to their arguments, sir ?' ” said Dr. Johnson. "Because,' replied Sir James, they argue for their fee.' “What is it to you, sir,' rejoined Dr. Johnson, what they argue for ? You “have nothing to do with their motive, but you ought to weigh their argument. “Sir, you seem to confound argument with assertion ; but there is an essential “ distinction between them. Assertion is like an arrow shot from a long bow; " the force with which it strikes depends on the strength of the arm that draws “it. But argument is like an arrow from a crossbow, which has equal force “whether shot by a boy or a giant.' The whole company was struck with the "aptness and beauty of this illustration ; and one of them said, “That is, in. “deed, one of the most just and admirable illustrations that I ever heard in
my life.' _"Sir,' said Dr. Johnson, the illustration is none of mine - you will “ find it in Bacon.'”
It is satisfactory to find Mr. Boswell thus rather corroborated than corrected by a person who professes superior precision. The substance is the same in both accounts, and it seems to the editor that Mr. Boswell's narration is at least as terse and characteristic as Dr. Moore's. Ed.]
1 The peace made by that very able statesman the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdown, which may fairly be considered as the foundation of all the prosperity of Great Britain since that time.-BOSWELL.
2 In the first edition of my work, the epithet amiable was given. I was sorry to be obliged to strike it out; but I could not in justice suffer it to remain, after this young lady had not only written in favour of the savage anarchy with which France has been visited, but had (as I have been informed by good authority) walked, without horrour, over the ground at the Thuilleries when it was strewed with the naked bodies of the faithful Swiss Guards, who were barbarously massacred for having bravely defended, against a crew of ruffians, the monarch whom they had taken an oath to defend. From Dr. Johnson she could now expect not endearment, but repulsion.—Boswell. [Miss Williams, like many other early enthusiasts of the French revolution, had latterly altered her opinion very considerably. She died in 1828, æt. 65.-Ed.]
answered, “I am very ill indeed, madam. I am
May 28th, 1784. MÁS. MADAM,—You do me wrong by imputing my omission to any captious punctiliousness. · I have not yet seen Sir Joshua, and, when I do see him, I know not how to serve you. When I spoke upon your affairs 1 to him at Christmas, I received no encouragement to speak again.
“But we shall never do business by letters. We must see one another. “ I have returned your papers, and am glad that you
laid aside the thought of printing them. I am, madam, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”] He had now a great desire to go to Oxford, as his first jaunt after his illness. We talked of it for some days, and I had promised to accompany him. He was impatient and fretful to-night, because I did not at once agree to go with him on Thursday. When I considered how ill he had been, and what allowance should be made for the influence of sickness upon his temper, I resolved to indulgę him, though with some inconvenience to myself, as I wished to attend the musical meeting in honour of Handel, in Westminster-Abbey, on the following Saturday. [" TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, May 31st, 1784. v. 2. “ I have one way or other been disappointed hitherto of p. 350. that change of air from which I think some relief may possibly be obtained; but Boswell and I have settled our resolution to go to Oxford on Thursday. But since I was at Oxford, my convivial friend Dr. Edwards and my learned friend Dr. Wheeler are both dead, and my probabilities of pleasure are very much diminished. Why, when so many are taken away, have I been yet spared ? I hope that I may be fitter to die.
“ How long we shall stay at Oxford, or what we shall do when we leave it, neither Bozzy nor I have settled : he is for his part resolved to remove his family to London, and try his fortune at the English bar: let us all wish him success.”]
· [Probably affairs similar to that mentioned ante, vol. iv. p. 240.-ED.]
In the midst of his own diseases and pains, he was ever compassionate to the distresses of others, and actively earnest in procuring them aid, as appears from a note to Sir Joshua Reynolds, of June, in these words:
“I am ashamed to ask for some relief for a poor man, to whom I hope I have given what I can be expected to spare. The man importunes me, and the blow goes round. I am going to try another air on Thursday."
[The following letter from Miss Reynolds shows that he was not a solicitor for the poor of his own acquaintance only. It seems to have been given to some poor woman as an introduction to Dr. Johnson:]
“Dover-street, July 9th. [“MY GOOD SIR,— I could not forbear to communicate to the poor woman the hope you had given me of using your interest with your
friends to raise her a little sum to enable her to see her native country again ; nor could I refuse to write a line to procure her the pleasure of the confirmation of that hope.
“I am, and always have been, very troublesome to you; but you are, and always have been, very good to your obliged humble servant,
“ FRANCES REYNOLDS."] On Thursday, June 3, the Oxford post coach took us up in the morning at Bolt-court. The other two passengers were Mrs. Beresford and her daughter, two very agreeable ladies from America : they were going to Worcestershire, where they then resided. Frank had been sent by his master the day before to take places for us; and I found froin the way-bill that Dr. Johnson had made our names be put down. Mrs. Beresford, who had read it, whispered me, “ Is this the great Dr. Johnson?” I told her it was; so she was then prepared to listen. As she soon happened to mention, in a voice so low that Johnson did not hear it, that her husband had been a member of the American Congress, I cautioned her to beware of introducing that subject, as she must know how very