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Tea with Miss Williams.
felt upon this unexpected and very great mark of his affectionate regard.
Next day, Sunday, July 31, I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. JOHNSON. 'Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.'
On Tuesday, August 2 (the day of my departure from London having been fixed for the 5th,) Dr. Johnson did me the honour to pass a part of the morning with me at my Chambers. He said, that he always felt an inclination to do nothing.' I observed, that it was strange to think that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious work, The English Dictionary.
I mentioned an imprudent publication', by a certain friend of his, at an early period of life, and asked him if he thought it would hurt him. JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an election.'
I had now made good my title to be a privileged man, and was carried by him in the evening to drink tea with Miss Williams, whom, though under the misfortune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable in conversation; for she had a variety of literature, and expressed herself well; but her peculiar value was the intimacy in which she had long lived with Johnson, by which she was well acquainted with his habits, and knew how to lead him on to talk.
After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, which was a long narrow paved court in the neighbourhood, overshadowed by some trees. There we sauntered a considerable time; and I complained to him that my love of London and of his company was such, that I shrunk almost from the thought of going away, even to travel, which is generally so much desired by young men3. He roused me by manly and spirited conversation. He
'Probably Burke's Vindication of Natural Society, published in 1756 when Burke was twenty-six.
* See ante, p. 421.
3 Boswell wrote to Temple on July 28, 1763-My departure fills me with a kind of gloom that quite over
shadows my mind. I could almost weep to think of leaving dear London, and the calm retirement of the Inner Temple. This is very effeminate and very young, but I cannot help it.' Letters of Boswell, p. 46.
advised me, when settled in any place abroad, to study with an eagerness after knowledge, and to apply to Greek an hour every day; and when I was moving about, to read diligently the great book of mankind.
On Wednesday, August 3, we had our last social evening at the Turk's Head coffee-house, before my setting out for foreign parts. I had the misfortune, before we parted, to irritate him. unintentionally. I mentioned to him how common it was in the world to tell absurd stories of him, and to ascribe to him very strange sayings. JOHNSON. 'What do they make me say, Sir?' BOSWELL. Why, Sir, as an instance very strange indeed, (laughing heartily as I spoke,) David Hume told me, you said that you would stand before a battery of cannon, to restore the Convocation to its full powers.' Little did I apprehend that he had actually said this: but I was soon convinced of my errour; for, with a determined look, he thundered out 'And would I not, Sir? Shall the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland have its General Assembly, and the Church of England be denied its Convocation?' He was walking up and down the room while I told him the anecdote; but when he uttered this explosion of highchurch zeal, he had come close to my chair, and his eyes flashed with indignation. I bowed to the storm, and diverted the force of it, by leading him to expatiate on the influence which religion derived from maintaining the church with great external respectability.
I must not omit to mention that he this year wrote The Life of Ascham†, and the Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesburyt, prefixed to the edition of that writer's English works, published by Mr. Bennet2.
On Friday, August 5, we set
1 Mrs. Piozzi says (Anec. p. 297) that 'Johnson's eyes were so wild, so piercing, and at times so fierce, that fear was, I believe, the first emotion in the hearts of all his beholders.'
2 Johnson was, in fact, the editor of this work, as appears from a letter of Mr. T. Davies to the Rev. Edm. Bettesworth :-'Reverend Sir,-I take the liberty to send you Roger Ascham's works in English. Though
out early in the morning in the
Mr. Bennet's name is in the title, the editor was in reality Mr. Johnson, the author of the Rambler, who wrote the life of the author, and added several notes. Mr. Johnson gave it to Mr. Bennet, for his advantage,' &c.—CROKER. Very likely Davies exaggerated Johnson's share in the book. Bennet's edition was published, not in 1763, but in 1761.
In the Harwich stage coach.
Harwich stage coach. A fat elderly gentlewoman, and a young Dutchman, seemed the most inclined among us to conversation. At the inn where we dined, the gentlewoman said that she had done her best to educate her children; and particularly, that she had never suffered them to be a moment idle. JOHNSON. 'I wish, madam, you would educate me too; for I have been an idle fellow all my life.' 'I am sure, Sir, (said she) you have not been idle.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Madam, it is very true; and that gentleman there (pointing to me,) has been idle. He was idle at Edinburgh. His father sent him to Glasgow, where he continued to be idle. He then came to London, where he has been very idle; and now he is going to Utrecht, where he will be as idle as ever.' I asked him privately how he could expose me so. JOHNSON. 'Poh, poh! (said he) they knew nothing about you, and will think of it no more.' In the afternoon the gentlewoman talked violently against the Roman Catholicks, and of the horrours of the Inquisition. To the utter astonishment of all the passengers but myself, who knew that he could talk upon any side of a question, he defended the Inquisition, and maintained, that 'false doctrine should be checked on its first appearance; that the civil power should unite with the church in punishing those who dared to attack the established religion, and that such only were punished by the Inquisition'. He had in his pocket 'Pomponius Mela de situ Orbis,' in which he read occasionally, and seemed very intent upon ancient geography. Though by no means niggardly, his attention to what was generally right was so minute, that having observed at one of the stages that I ostentatiously gave a shilling to the coachman, when the custom was for each passenger to give only six-pence, he took me aside and. scolded me, saying that what I had done would make the coach
· Lord Sheffield describes the change in Gibbon's opinions caused by the Reign of Terror:-'He became a warm and zealous advocate for every sort of old establishment. I recollect in a circle where French affairs were the topic and some Portuguese present, he, seemingly with seriousness, argued in favour of the Inquisition at Lisbon, and said VOL. I. Hh
he would not, at the present moment, give up even that old establishment.' Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 328. One of Gibbon's correspondents told him in 1792, that the Wealth of Nations had been condemned by the Inquisition on account of 'the lowness of its style and the looseness of the morals which it inculcates.' Ib. ii. 479. See also post, May, 7, 1773.
man dissatisfied with all the rest of the passengers, who gave him no more than his due. This was a just reprimand; for in whatever way a man may indulge his generosity or his vanity in spending his money, for the sake of others he ought not to raise the price of any article for which there is a constant demand.
He talked of Mr. Blacklock's poetry, so far as it was descriptive of visible objects; and observed, that 'as its authour had the misfortune to be blind, we may be absolutely sure that such passages are combinations of what he has remembered of the works of other writers who could see. That foolish fellow, Spence, has laboured to explain philosophically how Blacklock may have done, by means of his own faculties, what it is impossible he should do'. The solution, as I have given it, is plain. Suppose, I know a man to be so lame that he is absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find him in a different room from that in which I left him; shall I puzzle myself with idle conjectures, that, perhaps, his nerves have by some unknown change all at once become effective? No, Sir; it it clear how he got into a different room: he was carried?
Having stopped a night at Colchester, Johnson talked of that town with veneration, for having stood a siege for Charles the First. The Dutchman alone now remained with us. He spoke English tolerably well; and thinking to recommend himself to us by expatiating on the superiority of the criminal jurisprudence of this country over that of Holland, he inveighed against the barbarity of putting an accused person to the torture, in order to
' Johnson wrote on Aug. 17, 1773: 'This morning I saw at breakfast Dr. Blacklock, the blind poet, who does not remember to have seen light, and is read to by a poor scholar in Latin, Greek, and French. He was originally a poor scholar himself. I looked on him with reverence.' Piozzi Letters, i. 110. See also Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 17, 1773. Spence published an Account of Blacklock, in which he meanly omitted any mention of Hume's great generosity to the blind poet. J. H. Burton's Hume, i. 392.
Torture in Holland.
force a confession'. But Johnson was as ready for this, as for
At supper this night he talked of good eating with uncommon satisfaction. Some people (said he,) have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else?.' He now appeared to me Jean Bull
' Mackintosh (Life, ii. 162) writing of the time of William III, says that 'torture was legal in Scotland, and familiar in every country of Europe but England. Was there a single writer at that time who had objected to torture? I think not.' In the Gent. Mag. for 1742 (p. 660) it is stated that the King of Prussia has forbid the use of torture in his dominions.' In 1747 (p. 298) we read that Dr. Blackwell, an English physician, had been put to the torture in Sweden. Montesquieu in the Esprit des Lois, vi. 17, published in 1748, writing of 'la question ou torture contre les criminels,' says :'Nous voyons aujourd'hui une nation très-bien policée [la nation anglaise] la rejeter sans inconvénient. Elle n'est donc pas nécessaire par sa nature.' Boswell in 1765 found that Paoli tortured a criminal with fire. Corsica, p. 158. Voltaire, in 1777, after telling how innocent men had been put to death with torture in the reign of Lewis XIV, continues Mais un roi a-t-il le temps de songer à ces menus détails d'horreurs au milieu de ses fêtes, de ses conquêtes, et de ses maîtresses? Daignez vous en occuper, ô Louis XVI, vous qui
n'avez aucune de ces distractions !'
2 'A cheerful and good heart will
Verecundari neminem apud men-
Nam ibi de divinis atque huma
Trinummus, act 2, sc. 4.