Slike strani

which Demosthenes' orations had upon them shows that they were barbarians.'

Sir Adam was unlucky in his topics; for he suggested a doubt of the propriety of bishops having seats in the House of Lords. JOHNSON: How so, sir? Who is more proper for having the dignity of a peer, than a bishop, provided a bishop be what he ought to be; and if improper bishops be made, that is not the fault of the bishops, but of those who make them.'

On Sunday, April 5, after attending divine service at St. Paul's church, I found him alone. Of a schoolmaster of his acquaintance, a native of Scotland, he said: “He has a great deal of good about him; but he is also very defective in some respects. His inner part is good, but his outer part is mighty awkward. You in Scotland do not attain that nice critical skill in languages, which we get in our schools in England. I would not put a boy to him, whom I intended for a man of learning. But for the sons of citizens, who are to learn a little, get good morals, and then go to trade, he may do very well.'

I mentioned a cause in which I had appeared as counsel at the bar of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where a Probationer (as one licensed to preach, but not yet ordained, is called) was opposed in his application to be inducted, because it was alleged that he had been guilty of fornication five years before. JOHNSON: Why, sir, if he has repented, it is not a sufficient objection. A man who is good enough to go to heaven is good enough to be a clergyman.' This was a humane and liberal sentiment. But the character of a clergyman is more sacred than that of an ordinary Christian. As he is

to instruct with authority, he should be regarded with reverence as one upon whom divine truth has had the effect to set him above such transgressions, as men, less exalted by spiritual habits and yet upon the whole not to be excluded from heaven, have been betrayed into by the predominance of passion. That clergymen may be considered as sinners in general, as all men are, cannot be denied; but this reflection will not counteract their good precepts so much, as the absolute knowledge of their having been guilty of certain specific immoral acts. I told him, that by the rules of the Church of Scotland, in their 'Book of Discipline,' if a scandal, as it is called, is not prosecuted for five years, it cannot afterwards be proceeded upon, 'unless it be of a heinous nature, or again become flagrant'; and that hence a question arose, whether fornication was a sin of a heinous nature; and that I had maintained, that it did not deserve that epithet, inasmuch as it was not one of those sins which argue very great depravity of heart: in short, was not, in the general acceptation of mankind, a heinous sin. JOHNSON: 'No, sir, it is not a heinous sin. A heinous sin is that for which a man is punished with death or banishment.' BOSWELL: 'But, sir, after I had argued that it was not a heinous sin, an old clergyman rose up, and repeating the text of Scripture denouncing judgment against whoremongers, asked whether, considering this, there could be any doubt of fornication being a heinous sin.' JOHNSON: Why, sir, observe the word whoremonger. Every sin, if persisted in, will become heinous. Whoremonger is a dealer in whores, as ironmonger is a dealer in iron. But as you don't call a man an ironmonger for buying and selling a

[ocr errors]

penknife; so you don't call a man a whoremonger for getting one wench with child.'1


I spoke of the inequality of the livings of the clergy in England, and the scanty provisions of some of the JOHNSON: 'Why yes, sir; but it cannot be helped. You must consider that the revenues of the clergy are not at the disposal of the State like the pay of the army. Different men have founded different churches; and some are better endowed, some worse. The State cannot interfere and make an equal division of what has been particularly appropriated. Now when a clergyman has but a small living, or even two small livings, he can afford very little to the curate.'

He said, he went more frequently to church when there were prayers only, than when there was also a sermon, as the people required more an example for the one than the other; it being much easier for them to hear a sermon than to fix their minds on prayer.

On Monday, April 6, I dined with him at Sir Alexander Macdonald's, where was a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots Royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency, and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honourable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the bar in Westminster Hall.

Fielding being mentioned, Johnson exclaimed, 'He was a blockhead'; and upon my expressing my astonishment at so strange an assertion, he said, 'What I mean by his being a blockhead is, that he

1 It must not be presumed that Dr. Johnson meant to give any countenance to licentiousness, though in the character of an advocate he made a just and subtle distinction between occasional and habitual transgression.

was a barren rascal.' BoswELL: Will you not allow, sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?' JOHNSON: 'Why, sir, it is of very low life. Richardson used to say, that had he not known who Fielding was, he should have believed he was an ostler. Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardson's than in all Tom Jones. I, indeed, never read Joseph Andrews.' ERSKINE: 'Surely, sir, JOHNSON: 'Why, sir,

Richardson is very tedious.' if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment.' I have already given my opinion of Fielding; but I cannot refrain from repeating here my wonder at Johnson's excessive and unaccountable depreciation of one of the best writers that England has produced. Tom Jones has stood the test of public opinion with such success as to have established its great merit, both for the story, the sentiments, and the manners, and also the varieties of diction, so as to leave no doubt of its having an animated truth of execution throughout.

A book of travels, lately published under the title of Coriat Junior, and written by Mr. Paterson,2 was mentioned. Johnson said, this book was in imitation of Sterne, and not of Coriat, whose name Paterson


1 [Johnson's severity against Fielding did not arise from any viciousness in his style, but from his loose life, and the profligacy of almost all his male characters. Who would venture to read one of his novels aloud to modest women? His novels are male amusements, and very amusing they certainly are. Fielding's conversation was coarse, and so tinctured with the rank weeds of the Garden, that it would now be thought only fit for a brothel.-B.]

2 Mr. Samuel Paterson, eminent for his knowledge of books.

3 Mr. Paterson, in a pamphlet, produced some evidence to show that his work was written before Sterne's Sentimental Journey appeared.

had chosen as a whimsical one. 'Tom Coriat (said he) was a humorist about the court of James the First. He had a mixture of learning, of wit, and of buffoonery. He first travelled through Europe and published his travels. He afterwards travelled on foot through Asia, and had made many remarks; but he died at Mandoa, and his remarks were lost.'

We talked of gaming, and animadverted on it with severity. JOHNSON: 'Nay, gentlemen, let us not aggravate the matter. It is not roguery to play with a man who is ignorant of the game while you are master of it, and so win his money; for he thinks he can play better than you, as you think you can play better than he; and the superior skill carries it. ERSKINE: 'He is a fool, but you are not a rogue.' JOHNSON: That's much about the truth, sir. It must be considered, that a man who only does what every one of the society to which he belongs would do, is not a dishonest man. In the republic of Sparta, it was agreed that stealing was not dishonourable if not discovered. I do not commend a society where there is an agreement that what would not otherwise be fair shall be fair; but I maintain, that an individual of any society, who practises what is allowed, is not a dishonest man.' BOSWELL: 'So then, sir, you do not think ill of a man who wins perhaps forty thousand pounds in a winter?' JOHNSON: 'Sir, I do not call a gamester a dishonest man; but I call him an unsocial man, an unprofitable man. Gaming is a mode of transferring property without producing any intermediate good. Trade gives employment to numbers, and so produces intermediate good.'

Mr. Erskine told us that when he was in the island VOL. III.

[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »