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On Friday, June 11, we talked at breakfast of forms of prayer. Johnson. “ I know of no good prayers but those in the · Book of Common Prayer.'” DR. ADAMS (in a very earnest manner). “I wish, sir, you would compose some family prayers.” JOHNson. “ I will not compose prayers for you, sir, because you can do it for yourself. But I have thought of getting together all the books of prayers which I could, selecting those which should appear to me the best, putting out some, inserting others, adding some prayers of my own, and prefixing a discourse on prayer.” We all now gathered about him, and two or three of us at a time joined in pressing him to execute this plan. He seemed to be a little displeased at the manner of our importunity, and in great agitation called out, “Do not talk thus of what is so awful. I know not what time GOD will allow me in this world. There are many things which I wish to do.” Some of us persisted, and Dr. Adams said, “I never was more serious about any thing in my life.” JOHNSON. “Let me alone, let me alone; I am overpowered.” And then he put his hands before his face, and reclined for some time upon the table '. I mentioned Jeremy Taylor's using, in his forms
“I am the chief of sinners," and other such self-condemning expressions “. “Now, (said I) this cannot be said with truth by every man, and therefore is improper for a general printed form. I myself cannot say that I am the worst of men: I will not say so." JOHNSON. “ A man may know, that physically, that is, in the real state of things, he
(Yet he had at this time composed all the prayers (except one) which Dr. Strahan afterwards published, as he stated, by Dr. Johnson's express desire-En.
2 [Such expressions are by no means common, nor, as Boswell would lead us to suppose, is their spirit a characteristic of Taylor's Prayers.-J. H. MARKLAND.] VOL. V.
is not the worst man; but that morally he may be so'. Law observes, that every man knows something worse of himself, than he is sure of in others.' You may not have committed such crimes as some men have done; but you do not know against what degree of light they have sinned. Besides, sir, the chief of sinners' is a mode of expression for “ I am a great sinner.' So St. Paul, speaking of our SAViour's having died to save sinners, says, ' of whom I am the chief :' yet he certainly did not think himself so bad as Judas Iscariot.” BOSWELL. “ But, sir, Taylor means it literally, for he founds a conceit
When praying for the conversion of sinners, and of himself in particular, he says, ' LORD, thou wilt not leave thy chief work undone.” JOHNSON. “I do not approve of figurative expressions in addressing the Supreme Being; and I never use them. Taylor gives a very good advice: “Never lie in your prayers ; never confess more than you really believe; never promise more than you mean to perform.'” I recollected this precept in his 'Golden Grove;' but his example for prayer contradicts his precept.
Dr. Johnson and I went in Dr. Adams's coach to dine with Dr. Nowell, Principal of St. Mary Hall, at his villa at Iffley, on the banks of the Isis, about two miles from Oxford. While we were upon the road, I had the resolution to ask Johnson whether he thought that the roughness of his manner had been an advantage or not, and if he would not have done more good if he had been more gentle. I proceeded to answer myself thus: “ Perhaps it has been of advantage, as it has given weight to what you said ; you could not, perhaps, have talked with such au
i [Ste unte, v. i. p. 381.--Ed.]
thority without it.” Johnson. “No, sir; I have done more good as I am. Obscenity and impiety have always been repressed in my company'.” BosWELL. True, sir; and that is more than can be said of every bishop. Greater liberties have been taken in the presence of a bishop, though a very good man, from his being milder, and therefore not commanding such awe. Yet, sir, many people who might have been benefited by your conversation have been frightened away. A worthy friend of ours has told me, that he has often been afraid to talk to you.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, he need not have been afraid, if he had any thing rational to say. If he had not, it was better he did not talk."
Dr. Nowell is celebrated for having preached a sermon before the House of Commons, on the 30th of January, 1772, full of high Tory sentiments, for which he was thanked as usual, and printed it at their request; but, in the midst of that turbulence and faction which disgraced a part of the present reign, the thanks were afterwards ordered to be expunged". This strange conduct sufficiently exposes itself; and Dr. Nowell will ever have the honour which is due to a lofty friend of our monarchical constitution. Dr. Johnson said to me, “Sir, the court will be very much to blame if he is not promoted.” I told this to Dr. Nowell; and asserting my humbler, though not less zealous, exertions in the same cause, I suggested, that whatever return we might, receive, we should still have the consolation of being like Butler's steady and generous royalist,
[See ante, vol. iii. p. 405.-En.] 2 The words of Erasmus (as my learned friend Archdeacon Kearney observes to me) may be applied to Johnson : “ Qui ingeniuin, sensum, dictionem hominis noverant, multis non offenduntur, quibus graviter erant offendendi, qui hæc ignorarunt."'--MALONE. 3 [See ante, vol. ij. p. 143, note. ED.]
66 True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shone upon!.”
We were well entertained and very happy at Dr. Nowell's, where was a very agreeable company; and we drank “ Church and King” after dinner, with true Tory cordiality.
We talked of a certain clergyman' of extraordinary character, who, by exerting his talents in writing on temporary topicks, and displaying uncommon intrepidity, had raised himself to affluence. I maintained that we ought not to be indignant at his success; for merit of every sort was entitled to reward. JOHNSON. “Sir, I will not allow this man to have merit. No, sir; what he has is rather the contrary : I will, indeed, allow him courage, and on this account we so far give him credit. We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on the highway, than for a fellow who jumps out of a ditch, and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice."
I censured the coarse invectives which were become fashionable in the House of Commons, and said, that if members of parliament must attack each other personally in the heat of debate, it should be done more genteelly. JOHNSON. “ No, sir; that would be much
Abuse is not so dangerous when there is no
1 [Hud. p. 3. c. ii. 1. 175.—ED.]
? [Rev. Henry Bate, who, in 1784, took the name of Dudley, was created a baronet in 1815, and died in 1824, without issue. He became first known to the world for a rather unclerical exhibition of personal prowess in a Vauxhall squabble (see Lond. Mug. for 1773, p. 461); he was afterwards actively connected with the public press; and in consequence of something that appeared in the Morning Herald, of which he was the proprietor, which was supposed to reflect on Lady Strathmore, he was involved in a duel (or pretended duel, Gent. Mag. 1810, p. 183, 1828, p. 496) with Mr. George Robinson Stoney, who soon after married the lady, and took the name of Bowes. It is singular that these remarkable events of his early life are not alluded to in the ample biography of the Gent. Mug. (vol. xciv. p. 273. 638). He was afterwards high in the church, and an active and respectable magistrate. - En.]
vehicle of wit and delicacy, no subtle conveyance. The difference between coarse and refined abuse is as the difference between being bruised by a club, and wounded by a poisoned arrow.”—I have since observed his position elegantly expressed by Dr. Young :
“ As the soft plume gives swiftness to the dart ,
Good breeding sends the satire to the heart.”
On Saturday, June 12, there drank tea with us at Dr. Adams's, Mr. John Henderson, student of Pembroke College, celebrated for his wonderful acquirements in alchymy, judicial astrology, and other abstruse and curious learning; and the Reverend Herbert Croft, who, I am afraid, was somewhat mortified by Dr. Johnson's not being highly pleased with
Family Discourses” which he had printed ; they were in too familiar a style to be approved of by so manly a mind. I have no note of this evening's conversation, except a single fragment. When I mentioned Thomas Lord Lyttelton's vision, the prediction of the time of his death, and its exact fulfilment:-JOHNSON. “ It is the most extraordinary thing that has happened in my day. I heard it with my own ears, from his uncle, Lord Westcote. I am so glad to have every evidence of the spiritual world, that I am willing to believe it." DR. ADAMS.
· [The feather does not give swiftness, but only serves to guide the arrow ; so that Young's allusion is incorrect as well as Mr. Boswell's.—ED.]
2 See an account of him, in a sermon by the Reverend Mr. Agutter.—Bos. WELL. [He was a young man of very extraordinary abilities, but of strange habits and manners. He had attracted the notice of many of the first characters in Oxford, who paid him much attention. He was supposed to be well read in books which no one else reads. He took his batchelor's degree, but never got out into the world, liaving died in college in 1778. He was, I think, sent to college by Dean Tucker, and his funeral sermon was preached by Mr. Agutter, Fellow of Magdalen, on the text “ Moses was learned in all the wis. dom of the Egyptians.”-HALI..]
3 A correct account of Lord Lyttelton's supposed Vision may be found in Nashe's “ History of Worcestershire.”- Additions and Corrections, p. 36 Malone.