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sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, "Follow me, and hear a lecture in philosophy"; and Charles, laying his hand on his sword, to say, "Follow me, and dethrone the Czar”; a man would be ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal : yet it is strange. As to the sailor, when you look down from the quarter-deck to the space below, you see the utmost extremity of human misery: such crowding, such filth, such stench!' BoswELL: 'Yet sailors are happy.' JOHNSON: 'They are happy as brutes are happy, with a piece of fresh meat,—with the grossest sensuality. But, sir, the profession of soldiers and sailors has the dignity of danger. Mankind reverence those who have got over fear, which is so general a weakness. Scort: 'But is not courage mechanical, and to be acquired?' JOHNSON: 'Why yes, sir, in a collective sense. Soldiers consider them selves only as part of a great machine.' SCOTT: 'We find people fond of being sailors.' JOHNSON: 'I cannot account for that any more than I can account for other strange perversions of imagination.'
His abhorrence of the profession of a sailor was uniformly violent; but in conversation he always exalted the profession of a soldier. And yet I have, in my large and various collection of his writings, a letter to an eminent friend, in which he expresses himself thus: 'My godson called on me lately. He is weary, and rationally weary of a military life. If you can place him in some other state, I think you may increase his happiness, and secure his virtue. A soldier's time is passed in distress and danger, or in idleness and corruption.' Such was his cool reflection
in his study; but whenever he was warmed and animated by the presence of company, he, like other philosophers, whose minds are impregnated with poetical fancy, caught the common enthusiasm for splendid renown.
He talked of Mr. Charles Fox, of whose abilities he thought highly, but observed that he did not talk much at our Club. I have heard Mr. Gibbon remark, 'that Mr. Fox could not be afraid of Dr. Johnson; yet he certainly was very shy of saying anything in Dr. Johnson's presence.' Mr. Scott now quoted what was said of Alcibiades by a Greek poet, to which Johnson assented.1
He told us that he had given Mrs. Montague a catalogue of all Daniel Defoe's works of imagination; most, if not all of which, as well as of his other works, he now enumerated, allowing a considerable share of merit to a man, who, bred a tradesman, had written so variously and so well. Indeed, his Robinson Crusoe is enough of itself to establish his reputation.
He expressed great indignation at the imposture of
1 [Wishing to discover the ancient observation here referred to, applied to Sir William Scott on the subject, but he had no recollection of it. My old and very learned friend, Dr. Michael Kearney, formerly senior fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and now Archdeacon of Raphoe in Ireland, has, however, most happily elucidated this passage. He remarks to me, that Mr. Boswell's memory must here have deceived him; and that Mr. Scott's observation must have been, that "Mr. Fox, in the instance mentioned, might be considered as the reverse of Phoax, of whom, as Plutarch relates in the Life of Alcibiades, Eupolis the tragedian said, It is true he can talk, and yet he is no speaker."'
If this discovery had been made by a scholiast on an ancient author, with what ardour and exuberant praise would Bentley or Taylor have spoken of it! Sir William Scott, to whom I communicated Dr. Kearney's remark, is perfectly satisfied that it is correct. For the other observations, signed K, we are indebted to the same gentleman. Every classical reader will lament that they are not more numerous.-M.]
the Cock Lane ghost, and related, with much satisfaction, how he had assisted in detecting the cheat, and had published an account of it in the newspapers. Upon this subject I incautiously offended him, by pressing him with too many questions, and he showed his displeasure: I apologised, saying that I asked questions in order to be instructed and entertained; I repaired eagerly to the fountain; but that the moment he gave me a hint, the moment he put a lock upon the well, I desisted.' 'But, sir (said he), that is forcing one to do a disagreeable thing': and he continued to rate me. 6 Nay, sir (said I), when you have put a lock upon the well, so that I can no longer drink, do not make the fountain of your wit play upon me and wet me.'
He sometimes could not bear being teased with questions. I was once present when a gentleman asked so many, as, 'What did you do, sir ?'-'What did you say, sir?' that he at last grew enraged, and said, 'I will not be put to the question. Don't you consider, sir, that these are not the manners of gentleman? I will not be baited with what and why; what is this? what is that? why is a cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?' The gentleman, who was a good deal out of countenance, said, 'Why, sir, you are so good, that I venture to trouble you.' JOHNSON: 'Sir, my being so good is no reason why you should be so ill.'
Talking of the Justitia hulk at Woolwich, in which criminals were punished, by being confined to labour, he said, 'I do not see that they are punished by this: they must have worked equally, had they never been guilty of stealing. They now only work; so, after
all, they have gained; what they stole is clear gain to them; the confinement is nothing. Every man who works is confined: the smith to his shop, the tailor to his garret.' BOSWELL: And Lord Mansfield to his Court.' JOHNSON: 'Yes, sir. You know the notion of confinement may be extended, as in the song, 'Every island is a prison.' There is, in Dodsley's collection, a copy of verses to the author of that song.'
Smith's Latin verses on Pococke, the great traveller,1 were mentioned. He repeated some of them, and said they were Smith's best verses.
He talked with an uncommon animation of travelling into distant countries; that the mind was enlarged by it, and that an acquisition of dignity of character was derived from it. He expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall of China. I catched it for the moment, and said I really believed I should go and see the wall of China had I not children, of whom it was my duty to take care. 'Sir (said he), by doing so, you would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a lustre reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China :-I am serious, sir.'
When we had left Mr. Scott's he said, 'Will you go home with me?' 'Sir (said I), it is late; but I'll go with you for three minutes.' JOHNSON: 'Or four.'
1 [Smith's verses are on Edward Pococke, the great Oriental linguist: he travelled, it is true, but Dr. Richard Pococke, late Bishop of Ossory, who published Travels through the East, is usually called the great traveller.-K.]
We went to Mrs. Williams's room, where we found Mr. Allen the printer, who was the landlord of his house in Bolt Court, a worthy, obliging man, and his very old acquaintance; and what was exceedingly amusing, though he was of a very diminutive size, he used, even in Johnson's presence, to imitate the stately periods and slow and solemn utterance of the great man. I this evening boasted, that although I did not write what is called stenography, or shorthand, in appropriated characters devised for the purpose, I had a method of my own of writing half words, and leaving out some altogether, so as yet to keep the substance and language of any discourse which I had heard so much in view, that I could give it very completely soon after I had taken it down. He defied me, as he had once defied an actual shorthand writer; and he made the experiment by reading slowly and distinctly a part of Robertson's History of America, while I endeavoured to write it in my way of taking notes. It was found that I had it very imperfectly; the conclusion from which was, that its excellence was principally owing to a studied arrangement of words, which could not be varied or abridged without an essential injury.
On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner; Dr. Dodd's poem, entitled Thoughts in Prison, was lying upon the table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it: to my surprise he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book, and read a passage to him. JOHNSON: Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them.' I read another