Monday, December 28, 2015
Reading Bowell's Life Of Johnson With James Gould Cozzens
Imagine being able to look over the shoulder of your favorite author as he reads a book that you and he both like. Well I just had a an experience a bit like that and thanks to my hours of tedious typing you can share the experience. James Gould Cozzens might not be your favorite author and, even more improbably you might not like Boswell's Life of Johnsons, but it is best I can do.
Although I think George Will is entirely wrong about the IRS scandal, I am forever grateful to him. In the early eighties, one of his columns recommended Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens. I was still using Worcester Public Library a lot back then. For most of my career it was just a short walk from whichever building I happened to be in at the time. Guard of Honor was not there, but by a great stroke of luck I picked up Morning, Noon and Night, his last novel, which was not well received.
It was fortunate, because at least by my lights Cozzens kept getting better, His first work Confusion, published while he was still at Harvard, was tough to get through and I still have not made it through Michael Scarlett.
Cozzens himself was embarrassed enough by his early work that you will find that in the other books mentioned at the front of By Love Possessed.the lists starts with SS San Pedro published in 1931. To the extent that I am a serious book collector, it is mainly focused on works by and about Cozzens.
I realize that my appreciation for Cozzens is indicative of a certain kind of conservativism. If you wanted to pick a theme to characterize the works of Cozzens that he did not disown, it might well be "Men at Work" - middle-aged, WASP men at that. We get the sailors on San Pedro, who are a bit exotic, but then we get quite a few people who are relatively large fish in small ponds practicing law, politics, medicine and ministry. Guard of Honor gave Cozzens a much broader canvass, but in some ways it is those same type of guys caught up in a great enterprise.
Matthew Bruccoli who died in 2008 is best known for his work on F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also did quite a bit of work on Cozzens, He got to know Cozzens pretty well. It might be a stretch, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Bruccoli (born in 1931) was Cozzen's(born in 1903) Boswell, I have evidence of Cozzens fondness for Brucolli. There is a limited edition of a short story by Cozzens titled A Rope For Doctor Webster . I have copy XLVIII inscribed to James Meriwether. Cozzens wrote
What hath Matt wrought - damn good I think. Warm regards always
At any rate, Professor Bruccoli had one heck of a book collection much of which has ended up at the Caliban Book Shop in Pittsburgh, From them I bought something I find truly extraordinary. James Gould Cozzens's personal copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson with passages marked by Cozzens.
What I feel in common with both Johnson and Cozzens is a respect, perhaps even reverence of a sort, for the institutions that preserve civilization along with an inability to be really of them.
At any rate, a treasure like this must be shared. So I have tediously typed out the passages from Boswell that Cozzens marked, I'm listening for how they might have echoed in Cozzens's novels, but I think I might save the commentary for another post.
Boswell's Life Of Johnson - with an Introduction by Chauncey Brewster Tinker
Oxford University Press - 1934
Passages marked by James Gould Cozzens
There are indeed, some natural reasons why these narratives are often written by such as were not likely to give much instruction or delight, and why most accounts of particular persons are barren and useless.
"I would rather (said he) gave the rod to be the general terrour to all, to make them learn, than tell a child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteemed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas , by exploiting emulation and comparisons of superiority you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make brothers and sister hate each other."
Our trees were blasted, by the thunder stroke,
And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak,
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak
His being outstripped by his pupil in the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him feel some indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the most successful efforts of literary life could obtain.
There is perhaps in every thing of any consequence, a secret history which it would be amusing to know, could we have it authentically communicated.
But in this benevolent purpose he met with no small difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which could not brook that a drama which he had formed with much study, and had been obliged to keep more than the nine years of Horace, should be revised and altered at the pleasure of an actor.
Analysed into parts it will furnish a rich store of noble sentiments, fine imagery, and beautiful language; but it is deficient in pathos, in that delicate power of touching the human feelings, which is the principal end of the drama.
He had, indeed, upon all occasions, a great deference for the general opinion: ' A man (said he) who writes a book thinks himself wiser or wittier than the rest of mankind; he supposes that he can instruct or amuse them, and the publick to whom he appeals, must, after all, be the judges of his pretensions."
The ladies were regretting the death of a friend, to whom the owed great obligations; upon which Reynolds observed, 'You have, however, the comfort of being relieved from a buthern of gratitude.'
Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; but but by praise from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments, he was peculiarly gratified.
My book is now coming in luminis oras. What will be its fate I know not, nor think much, because thinking is to no purpose. It must stand the censure of the great vulgar and the small; of those that understand it, and that understand it not. But in all this, I suffer not alone: every writer has the same difficulties and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more than he thinks
To Dr. Birch
Sir March 29, 1755
'I have sent some parts of my Dictionary, such as were at hand, for your inspection, The favour which I beg is, that if you do not like them, you will say nothing. I am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant
It has long been observed , that men do not suspect faults which they do not commit
Sir Joshua Reynold heard him say, 'There are two thing which I am confident I can do very well: one is an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclusion, shewing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to what the author promised to himself and to the publick.
A lady once asked him how he came to define Pastern the knee of a horse : instead of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered 'Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance'
I have often thought, that as longevity is generally desired, and I believe, generally expected, it would be wise to be continually adding to the number of our friends, that the loss of some may be supplied by others.
He for subscribers bates his hook,
And takes your cash; but where's the book?
No matter where; wise fear, you know,
Forbids the robbing of a foe;
But what to serve our private ends,
Forbids the cheating of our friends
A casual coincidence with other writers, or an adoption f a sentiment or image which has been found in the writings of another and afterwards appears in the mind as one's own is not unfrequent.
'I know not any thing more pleasant, or more instructive than to compare experience with expectation, or to register from time to time the difference between idea and reality. It is by this kind of observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed.
Whether to see life as it is, will give us much consolation, I know not; but the consolatin which is drawn from truth, if any there be, is solid and durable; that which may be derived from error must be, like its original fallacious and fugitive.
I always remember a remark meade to me by a Turkish lady, edcuated in France, 'Ma foi, Monsieur, notre bonheur depend de la facon que notre sang circule'
It is a melancholy consideration, that so much of our time is nesessarily to be spent upons the care of living, and that we can seldom obtain ease in one respect but by resigning it in another; yet I suppose we are by this dispensation not less happy in the whole, than if the spontaneous bounty of Nature poured all that we want into out hands. A few, if they were thus left to themselves, would perhaps spend their time in laudable pursuits; but the greater part would prey upon the quiet of each other, or, in the want of other objects, would prey upon themselves.
knowing from his sagacity, and just observation of human nature, that it is certain if a man hates at all, he will hate his next neighbour
I am sorry for your disappointment, with which you seem more touched than I should expect a man of your resolution and experience to have been, did I not know that general truths are seldom applied to particular occasions; and that the fallacy of our self-love extends itself as wide as our interest or affections. Every man believes that mistresses are unfaithful, and patrons capricious; but he excepts his own mistress, and his own patron. We have all learned that greatness is negligent and contemptuous, and that in Courts life is often languished away in ungratified expectation; but he that approaches greatness, or glitters in a Court, imagines that destiny has at last exempted him from the common lot.
and keep always in your mind, that, with due submission to Providence a man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.
There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman; and if all would happen that a lover fancies, I know not what other terrestrial happiness would deserve pusuit. But love and marriage are different states.
he was at all times indignant against that false patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that unruly restlessness, which is inconsistent with the stable authority of any good government
In civilized society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money will. Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into the street , and give one man a lecture on morality and another a shilling, and see which will respect you more.
When I was a boy, I used to always choose the wrong side of a debate, because most ingenious things, that is to say most new things, could be said upon it. Sir, there is nothing for which you may not muster up more plausible arguments, than those which are urged against wealth and other external advantages. Why, now there is stealing; why should it be thought a crime? When we consider by what unjust methods property has been often acquired, and what was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep, where is the harm in one man's taking the property of another from him? Besdies, Sir, when we consider the bad use that many people make of their property, and how much better use the thief may make of it, it may be defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, Sir, the experience of mankind has discovered stealing to be so very bad a thing, that they make no scruple to hang a man for it. When I was running about this town a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advantages of poverty; but I was, at the same time very sorry to be poor, Sir, all the arguments wich are brought to represent poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune - So you hear people talking about how miserable a King must be; and yet they all wish to be in his place.
Were all distinctions abolished, the strongest would not long acquiesce, but would endeavour to obtain a superiority by their bodily strength. But, Sir, as subordination is very necessary for socieity, and contentions for superiority very dangerous, mankind, that is to say, all civilized nations, have settled it upon a plain invariable principle. A man is born to hereditary rank; or his being appointed to certain offices gives him a certain rank. Subordination tends greatly to human happiness. Were we all upon an equality, we should have no other enjoyment than mere animal pleasure.
Supposing a miracle possible, as to which, in my opinion, there can be no doubt, we have as strong evidence for the miracles in support of Christianity as the nature of things admits.
Sir, while you are considering which of two things you should teach your child first, another boy has learnt them both.
Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of stupidity, Sir, is not in Nature. So (said he) I allowed him all his own merit.
On his favourite subject of subordination, Johnson said, 'So far is it from, being true that all men are naturally equal, that no tow people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.
JOHNSON Why, Sir, our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore. GOLDSMITH Nay, Sir, but your muse was not a whore JOHNSON Sir, I do not think she was. But as we advance in the journey of life, we drop some of the things which have pleased us; whether it be that we are fatigued and didn't choose to carry so many things any farther or that we find other things which we like better
Will you be so good as to carry a fifty pound note from me to him? This I positvely refused to do, as he might, perhaps, have knocked me down for insulting him, and have afterwards put the note in his pocket.
At this time I observed on the dial-plate of his watch a short Greek inscription, taken from the New Testament, __________________ being the SAVIOUR's solemn admonition to the improvement of that time which is allowed us to prepare for eternity: the night cometh, when no man can work
the very essence of government is restraint; and certain it is, that as government produces rational happiness, too much restraint is better than too little. But when restraint is unnescessry, and so close as to gall those who are subject to it, the people may and ought to remonstrate; and if relief is not granted, to resist, Of this manly and spirited principle, no man was more convinced than Johnson himself.
No, Sir. Swift has told what he has to tell distinctly enough, but that is all. He had to count to ten and he has counted it right.
When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning, I found him highly satisfied with his colloquial prowess the prededing evening. 'Well, (said he) we had good talk. BOSWELL 'Yes, Sir; you tossed and gored several persons'
There is in human nature a general inclination to make people stare; and every wise man has himself to cure of it, and does cure himself.
JOHNSON. 'Most of them, Sir, have never thought at all' BOSWELL 'But is not the fear of death natural to a man?" JOHNSON 'So much so Sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it'
BOSWELL 'I have often blamed myself, Sir, for not feeling for others as sensibly as many say they do' JOHNSON 'Sir, don't be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you by feeling'
He observed ' Providence has wisely ordered that the more numerous men are, the more difficult it is for them to agree in any thing, and so they are governed. There is no doubt that if the poor should reason "We'll be the poor no longer, we'll make the rich take their turn," they could easily do it, were it not that they can't agree. So the common soldiers, though so much more numerous than their officers, are governed by them for the same reason.
"Strange cozenage? none would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure from what still remain"
For his part, he said, he never passed that week in his life which he would wish to repeat, were an angel to make the proposal to him.
'Speaking of the national debt, he said it was an idle dream to suppose that the country could sink under it. Let the public creditors be ever so clamorous, the interest of millions must ever prevail over that of thousands.'
'One evening at Mrs. Montagu's , where a splendid company was assembled, constituting of the most eminent literary characters, I though he seemed highly pleased with the respect and attention that were shewn him, and asked him on our return home if he was not highly gratified by his visit; "No Sir, (said he) not highly gratified; yet I do not recollect to have passed many evenings with fewer objections.
JOHNSON 'Sir, it is so far from being natural for a man and woman to live in a state of marriage, that we find all the motives which they have for remaining in that connection, and the restraints which civilized society imposes to prevent separation are hardly sufficient to keep them together.
You are like the French statesman, who said, when he granted a favour "J'ai fait dix mecontents et un ingrat"
Sir Adam suggested, that luxury corrupts a people, and destroys the spirit of liberty, JOHNSON 'Sir, that is all visionary. I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. What Frenchman is prevented from passing his life as he pleases?SIR ADAM But, Sir, in the British constitution it is surely of importance to keep up a spirit in the people so as to preserve a balance against the crown JOHNSON Sir I perecieve you are a vile Whig. Why all this childish jealousy of the power of the crown? The crown has not power enough, When I say that all governments are alike I consider that in no government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it. If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every from of government, Had not the people of France thought themselves honoured as sharing in the brilliant actions of Lewis XIV, they would not have endured him; and we may say the same of the King of Prussia's people.
The General told us, that when he was a very young man, I think only fifteen, serving under Prince Eugene of Savoym he was sitting in a company at table with a Prince of Wirtenberg, The Prince took up a glass of wine, and, by a fillip, made some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. Here was a nice dilemma, To have challenged him instantly, might have fixed a quarrelsome character upon the young soldier: to have taken no notice of it might have been considered as cowardice. Oglethorpe, therefore, keeping his eye, upon the Prince and smiling all the time, as if he took what his Highness had done in jest, said 'Mon Prince (I forget the French words he used, the purport however was)'That's a good joke; bu we do it much better in England'; and threw a whole glass o wine in the Prince's face. An old General who sat by said 'Il bien fair, mon Pince, vous l'avez commence:' and thus all ended in good humour.
BOSWELL 'For my part, I like very well to hear Goldsmith talk away carelessly.' JOHNSON 'Why yes, Sir; but he should not like to hear himself.'
"For colleges on bounteous Kings depend
And never rebel was to arts a friend
It did not require much sagacity to foresee that such a sentiment would not be permitted to pass without due animadversion.
Read over your composition , and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is paticularly fine, strike it out.
Johnson praised John Bunyon highly, 'His Pilgrim's Progress has great merit, both for invetion, imagination and the conduct of the story; and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the general and continued approbation of mankind.
'Why, Sir, as Pope was a Roman Catholick, I would not have his to be first. I think Milton's rather should have the precedence. I thnk more highly of him now than I did at twenty. There is more thining in him and in Butler, than in any of our poets.'
JOHNSON 'Sir, the only method by which religious truth can be established is by martyrdom. The magistrate has the right to enforce what he thinks; and he who is conscious of the truth has the right to suffer. I am afraid there is no other way of ascertaining the truth, but by persecution on the one hand and enduring it on the other.'
JOHNSON, (interrupting him) 'Sir, they were not burnt for not believing bread and wine to be CHRIST but for insulting those who did believe it. And, Sir, when the first reformers began, they did not intend to be martyred: as many of them ran away as could.
Chambers is either married, or almost married, to Miss Wilton, a girl of sixteen, exquisitely beautiful, whom he has, with his lawyer's tongue, persuaded to take her chance with him in the East.
'There are in that book thoughts, which, by long revolution in the great mind of Johnson have been formed and polished like pebbles rolled in the ocean !'
He was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him GREAT.
We got into an argument about whether the Judges who went to India might with propriety engage in trade. Johnson warmly maintatined that they might. 'For why (he urged,) should not Judges get riches, as well as those who deserve them less?' I said, they should have sufficient salaries, and have nothing to take off their attention from the affairs of the publick. JOHNSON 'No Judge, Sir, can give his whole attention to his office; and it is very proper that he should employ what time he has to himself, to his own advantage, in the most profitable manner' 'then, Sir, (said Davies, who enlivened the dispute by making it somewhat dramatick) he may become an insurer; and when he is going to the bench, he may be stopped, ___ "Your Lordship cannot go yet: here is a bunch of invoices : several ships are about to sail" JOHNSON "Sir, you may as well say a Judge should not have a house; for they may come and tell him "You Lordship's house is on fire;" and so, instead of minding the business of his Court, he is to be occupied in getting the engine with the greatest speed. There is no end of this. Every Judge who has land, trades to a certain extent in corn or in cattle; and in the land itself, undoubtedly. His steward acts for him, and so do clerks for a great merchant. A Judge may be a farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play a little at cards for his amusement; but he is not to play at marbles, or at chuck-farting in the Piazza. No, Sir; there is no profession to which a man gives a very great proportion of his time. It is wonderful, when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of any profession. No man would be a Judge, upon the condition of being totally a Judge.
JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly. The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
Tom Davies clapped him on the back, to encourage him. Beauclerk, to whom I mentioned this circumstance said, ' that he could not concieve a more humiliating situation than to be clapped on the back by Tom Daives'.
1 Johnson certainly did, who had a mind stored with knowledge, and teeming with imagery: but the observation is not applicable to writers in general
happiness was very rare in human life, a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present, he anwered 'Never but when he was drunk'
He said one day, talking to an acauaintance on this subject. 'Sir, Hell is paved with good intentions.'
I regretted that I had lost much of my dispostion to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. JOHNSON 'Sir, as a man advance in life, he gets what is better than - judgement. to estimate things at their true value' I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgement, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne. JOHNSON 'No, Sir; admiration and love are like being intoxicated with champagne; judgement and friendship are like being enlivened. Walter has hit upon the same thought with you. I wish you would enable yourself to borrow more.'
Amoret's as sweet and good,
As the most deliscious food;
Which but tasted does impart
Life and gladness to the heart.
Sacharissa's beauty's wine,
Which to madness does incline;
Such a liquor as no brain
That is mortal can sustain
'Publick practice of any art, (he observed) and staring in men's faces, is very indelicate in a female.
'I hate by-roads in education. Education is as well known, and has long been as well known, as ever it can be. Endeavoring to make children prematurely wise is useless labour. Suppose they have more knowledge at five or six years old than other children, what use can be made of it? It will be lost before it is wanted, and the waste of so much time and labour of the teacher can never be repaired. Too much is expected from precocity and too little performed.
BOSWELL 'You would not solicit employment, Sir, if you were a lawyer.' JOHNSON 'No, Sir, but not because I should think it wrong, but because I should disdain it.
'Well, Sir, what did your friend say to you, as an apology for being in such a situation?' Johnson answered 'Sir, he said all that a man should say; he said he was sorry for it.
'A man, who has been drinking wine at all freely, should never go into a new company. With those who have partaken of the wine with him, he may be pretty well in unison; but he will probably be offensive, or appear ridiculous, to other people.'
'When a man voluntarily engages in an important cotroversy, he is to do all he can to lessen his antagonist, because authority from personal respect has much weight with most people, and often more than reasoning. If my antagonist writes bad language, though that may not be essential to the question, I will attack him for his bad language.'
He joined with me, and said 'Nothing odd will do long. Tristam Shandy did not last.'
JOHNSON ' Never believe extraordinary characters which you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exagerated. You do not see one man shoot a great deal higher than another.'
'No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.' He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines:-
'Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think, he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn
He seemed to be much diverted with the ferility of his own fancy.
I never heard the word blockhead applied to a woman before, though I do not see why it should not, when there is evident occaision for it.
Depend upon it, Sir, vicacity is much an art, and depends greatly on habit.
'A man should be careful never to tell tales of himself to his own disadvantage. People may be amused and laugh at the time, but they will be remembered, and brought out against him upon some subsequent occasion.
'There is nothing against which an old man should be so much upon his guard as putting himself to nurse.' Innumerable have been the melancholy instances of men once distinguished for firmness, resolution and spirit, who in their latter days have been governed like children, by interested female artifice.
He said 'It is commonly a weak man who marries for love.'
Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy.
'No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.' Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of literature.
He would begin thus: 'Why, Sir, as to the good or evil of card-playing' 'Now (said Garrick) he is thinking which side he shall take.'
but it is beetter that some should be unhappy, than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality
The Critical Reviewers, I believe often review without reading the books through; but lay hold of a topick, and write chiefly from their own minds. The Monthly Reviewers are duller men, and are glad to read the books through.
The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean
I took down Thomson, and read alound a large portion of him, and then asked - Is this fine? Shiels haveing expressed the highest admiration. Well, Sir, (said I,) I have omitted every other line.'
JOHNSON 'Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.'
JOHNSON 'Sir, I do not say it is wrong to procduce self complacency by drinking; I only deny that it improves the mind. When I drank wine, I scorned to drink it in company. I have drunk many a bottle by myself; in the first place, because I had need of it to raise my spirits; in the second place, because I would have nobody to witness its effects on me.'
'He never clarified his notions, by filtrating them through other minds. He had a canal upon his estate, where at one place the bank was too low, - I dug the canal deeper, said he,'
A man gives half a guinea for a dish of green peas. How much gardening does this occasion? how many labourers must the competition to have such things early in the market, keep in employment? You will hear it said, very gravely, Why was not the half-guinea, thus spent in luxury, given to the poor? To how many might it have afforded a good meal. Alas! has it not gone to the industrious poor?
for when there is, people differ in opinion, and get into bad humour, or some of the company who are not capable of such conversation, are left out, and feel themselves uneasy. It was for this reason, Sir Robert Walpole said, he always talked bawdy at table, because in that all could join.
However, this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of a summer too; a proof that he was a very witty man
if I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this, by saying many things to please him.
Dr. Johnson was much pleased with a remark whic I told him was made to me by General Paoli - 'That is impossible not to be afraid of death; and that those who at the tme of dyng are not afraid, are not thinking of death, but of applause, or something else, which keeps death out of their sight : so that all men are equally afraid of death when they see it; only some have a power of turning thier sight away from it better than others.'
'If (said he,) I had no duties and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman
I felt a pleasure in walking about Derby as I always have in walking about any town to which I am not accustomed. There is no immediate sensation of novelty; and one speculates on the way in which life is passed in it, which although there is a sameness every where upon the whole, is yet minutely diversified.
As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.
JOHNSON, 'Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.'
I felt great satisfaction in considering that I was supported in my fondness for solemn publick worship by the general concurrence and munificence of makind.
JOHNSON Very true, Sir; but I have always been more afraid of failing, than hopeful of success'. And, indeed, though he had all just respect for rank, no man ever less courted the favour of the great.
Yet I observed that things were done upon the supposition of happiness ; grand houses were built, fine gardens were made, splendid places of publick amusement were contrived, and crowded with company
it went to my heart to consider that there was not one in all that brilliant circle, that was not afraid to go home and think
But if temptations of ineterest are sometimes too strong for human virtue, let us at least retain a virtue where there is no temptation to quit it.
JOHNSON 'From my experience I have found them worse in commercial dealings, more disposed to cheat, than I had any notion of; but more disposed to do one another good than I had conceived J. 'Less just and more beneficent'
BOSWELL 'But he is not restless' JOHNSON 'Sir, he is only locally at rest. A chymist is locally at rest; but his mind is hard at work This gentleman had done with external exertions. It is too late for him to engage in distant projects.
You may remember an officer at Fort Augustus, who had served in America, told us of a woman whom they were obliged to bind, in order to get her back from savage life BOSWELL'She must have been an animal, a beast.' JOHNSON 'Sir, she was a speaking cat.'
South is one of the best, if you except his pecularities, and his violence, and sometimes coarseness of language.
Talking of a man's resolving to deny himself the use of wine, from moral and religious considerations, he said, 'He must not doubt about it. When one doubts as to pleasure,we know what will be the conclusion. I now no more think of drinking wine, than a horese does.'
'That is an extravegant case, Sir' You are sure a friend will thank you for hindering him from tumbling over a precipice; but, in the other case, I should hurt his vanity, and do him no good.
We talked of war. JOHNSON. 'Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.'
No, Sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, "Follow me and hear a lecture on philosophy;" and Charles, laying his hand on his sword to say, "Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;" a man would be ashamred to follow Socrates, Sir, the impression is universal; yet is strange.
Now, Sir, what a man avows, he is not ashamed to think; though many a man thinks, what he is ashamed to avow.
He was at first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he said nothing but 'Pretty baby,' to one of the children.
'I am willing to love all mankind, except an American'
EDWARDS. 'You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.'
'What a pity it is, Sir, that you did not follow the profession of the law. You might have been Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, and attained to the dignity of the peerage; and now that the title of Lichfield, your native city, is extinct, you might have had it.' Johnson, upon this, seemed much agitated; and in an angry tone, exclaimed, 'Why will you vex me by suggesting this, when it is too late?'
Nobody has a right to put another under such a difficulty, that he must either hurt the person by telling the truth, or hurt himself by telling what is not true.
Therefore the man, who is asked by an authour, what he thinks of his work, is put to the torture, and is not obliged to speak truth;
a maid of honour in France, who being asked by the Queen what o'clock it was, answered, 'What your Majesty pleases,'
He observed, 'A man cannot with propriety speak of himself, except he relates simple facts; as, " I was at Richmond:" or what depends on mensuration; as, " I am six feet high" He is sure he has been at Richmond; he is sure he is six feet high: but he cannot be sure he is wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censure of a man's self is oblique praise, It is in in order to shew how much he can spare. It has all the invidious ness of self-praise, and the reproach of falsehood.' BOSWELL 'Sometimes it may proceed from a man's strong consciousness of his faults being observed. He knows that others would throw him down, and therefore he had better lye down softly of his own accord.'
JOHNSON 'It is thus that mutual cowardice keeps us in peace. Were one half of manking brave, and one half cowards, the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all brave, they would lead a very uneasy life; all would be continually fighting: but being all cowards, we go on very well.'
Now that it is being as culpable as one can conceive to misrepresent fact in a book, and for what motive? It is like one of those lies which people tell, one cannot see why.
JOHNSON 'Yes, Sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst Mayor that can come; besides, there is no more reason to suppose that the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.'
as in getting money, which he said he believed no man could do without vigorous parts, though concentrated to a point. RAMSAY 'Yes, like a strong horse in a mill; he pulls better.'
Lord Graham commended Dr. Drummond at Naples as a man of extraordinary talents; and added, that he had a great love of liberty. JOHNSON. 'He is young, my Lord; (looking to his Lordship with an arch smile,) all boys love liberty, till experience convinces them they are not so fit to govern themselves as they imagined. We are all agreed as to our own liberty; we would have as much of it as we can get; but we are not agreed as to the liberty of others : for in proportion as we take, others must lose. I believe that we hardly wish that the mob should have liberty to govern us. When that was the case some time ago, no man was at liberty not to have candles in his windows.' RAMSAY. 'The result is, that order is better than confusion.' JOHNSON 'The result is , that order cannot be had but by subordination.'
Mr. __________, who lover buttered muffins, but durst not eat them because they disagreed with his stomach, resolved to shoot himself; and then he eat three buttered muffins for breakfast, before shooting himself, knowing that he should not be troubled with indigestion.
Mr. Beauclerk was very entertaining this day, and told us a number of short stories in a lively elegant manner, and with that air of the world which has I know not what impressive effect, as if there were something more than is expressed, or that perhaps we could perfectly understand.
Lord Newhaven took the opposite side: but respectfully said, 'I speak with great deference to you, Dr. Johnson; I speak to be instructed.' This had its full effect on my friend. He bowed his head almost as low as the table, to a complimenting nobleman; and called out, 'My Lord, my Lord, I do not desire all this ceremony; let us tell our minds to one another quietly.' After the debate was over, he said, 'I have got lights on the subject to-day, which I had not before.' This was a great deal from him, especially as he had written a pamphlet on it.
But when familiarity and noise claim the praise due to knowledge, art, and elegance, we must beat down such pretensions.
After all, however, it is a difficult question how far sincere Christians should associate with the avowed enemies of religion; for in the first place, almost every man's mind may be more or less 'corrupted by evil communications;' secondly, the world may very naturally suppose that they are not really in earnest in religion, who can easily bear its opponents; and thirdly, if the profane find themselves quite well received by the pious, one of the checks upon an open declaration of infidelity, and one of the probable chances of obliging them seriously to reflect, which their being shunned would do, is removed.
"Having told you what has happened to your friends, let me say something to you of yourself. You are always complaining of melancholy, and I conclude from those complaints that you are fond of it. No man talks of that which he is desirous to conceal, and every man desires to conceal that of which he is ashamed. Do not pretend to deny it; manifestium habemus furem; make it an invariable and obligatory law to yourself never to mention your own mental diseases; if you are never to speak of them, you will think on them but little, and if you think little of them, they will molest you rarely. When you talk of them, it is plain that you want either praise or pitty; for praise there is no room and pity will do you no good; therefore, from this hour speak no more, think no more, about them.
"no man was so free when he was going to say a good thing, from a look that expressed that it was coming; or , when he had said it, from a look that expressed that it had come
In short, Sir, you must have got no further than this: Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test
A man, he observed, should begin to write soon; for, if he waits till his judgement is matured, his inability, through want of practice to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees, and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at at all.
'Supposing (said he) a wife to be of a studious or argumentative turn, it would be very troublesome: for instance - if a woman should continually dwell upon the subject of the Arian heresy'
'An observation of Bathurst's may be mentioned, which Johnson repeated, appearing to acknowledge it to be well founded, namely, it was somewhat remarkable how seldom, on occasion of coming into the company of any new person, one felt any wish or inclination to see him again.
Some in defence of Addison, have said that "the act was done with the good natured view of rousing Steele, and correcting that profusion which always made him necessitous" __ "If that were the case, (said Johnson) and that he only wanted to alarm Steele, he would afterwards have returned the money to his friend which it is not pretended he did"-"This too, (he added,) might be retorted by an advocate for Steele, who might alledge, that he did not repay the loan intentionally, merely to see whether Addison would be mean and ungenerous enough to make use of legal process to recover it. But of such speculations there is no end; we cannot dive into the hearts of men; but their actions are open to observation.
the Criticial Reviewers for having 'kindly commended' his Dialogues of the Dead. Such 'acknowledgements (says my friend,) never can be proper, since they must be paid either for flattery or for justice.'
He that encroaches on another's dignity puts himself in his power; he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension.
'Every man of known influence has so many [more] petitions [than] which he [can] cannot grant, that he must necessarily offend more than he [can gratify] gratifies.
Johnson, with an indignant contempt, said, 'If he was such a rogue as to make up his mind upon a case without hearing it, he should not have been such a fool as to tell it.'
at last turning to Beauclerk, he said, by no means in a whisper, 'This merriment of parsons is mighty offensive.'
But his firmness was without asperity' for knowing with much difficulty truth was sometimes found, he did not wonder that many missed it.
'Ah, Sir, (said Johnson) ancient ruffles and modern principles do not agree.'
JOHNSON 'Man commonly cannot be successful in different ways. This gentleman has spent, in getting four thousand pounds a year, the time in which he might have learnt to talk; and now he cannot talk.'
he took upon him, with a very earnest concern, the office of one of his executors, the importance of which seemed greater than usual to him, from his circumstances haveing been always such, that he had scarcely any share in the real business of life.
Sterne's writings were very pathetick. Johnson bluntly denied it. 'I am sure (said she,) they have affected me.' 'Why (said Johnson, smiling, and rolling himself about) that is because, dearest, you're a dunce.' When she some time afterwards mentioned this to him, he said with equal truth and politeness; 'Madam, if I had thought so, I certainly should not have said it.'
From your bright eyes were shot such rays,
At once intoxication flash'd
And all my frame was in a blaze.
But not a brilliant blaze I own,
Of the dull smoke I'm yet asham'd;
I was a dreary ruin grown,
And not enlighten'd though inflam'd.
Victim at once to wine and love
I hope, Maria, you'll forgive;
While I invoke the powers above,
that henceforth I may wiser live
We who write, if we want the talents [talent], yet have the excuse that we do it for a poor subsistence; but what can be urged in their defence, who, not having the vocation of poverty to scribble, out of mere wantonness take pains to make themselves ridiculous? Horace was certainly in the right when he said, "That no man is satisfied with his own condition." A poet is not pleased, because he is not rich; and the rich are discontented because the poets will not admit them of their number."
Upon the road we talked of the uncertainty of profit with which authours and booksellers engage in the publication of literary works. JOHNSON 'My judgement I have found is no certain rule as to the sale of a book.
Being in a frame of mind which, I hope for the felicity of human nature, many experience,-in fine weather,- at the country house of a friend, - consoled and elevated by pious exercises - I expressed myself with an unrestrained fervour to my 'Guide, Philosopher, and Friend;' 'My dear Sir, I would fain be a good man; and I am very good now. I fear God and honour the King. I wish to do no ill, and to be benevolent to all mankind.
A man who is in that state, should not be suffered to live; if he declares he cannot help acting in a particular way, and is irresistibly impelled, there can be no confidence in him, no more than in a tyger. But, Sir, no man believes himself to be impelled irresistibly; we know that he who says he believes it, lies.
The Unitarian sect vainly presumes to comprehend and define the ALMIGHTY.
As a madman is apt to think himself grown suddenly great, so he that grows suddenly great is apt to borrow a little from the madman.
I have myself been ill more than eight weeks of a disorder, from which at the expence of about fifty ounces of blood, I hope I am now recovering.
It was a principle among the ancients, that acute diseases are from Heaven, and chronical from ourselves; the dart of death indeed falls from Heaven, but we poison it by our own misconduct; to die is the fate of man; but to die with lingering anguish is generally his folly.
I suppose the tenour is this: - 'Acute diseases are the immediate and inevitable strokes of Heaven; but of them the pain is short, and the conclusion speedy; chronical disorders, by which we are suspended in tedious torture between life and death, are commonly the effect of our own misconduct and intemperance.
few will reverence the understanding that is of so little advantage to its owner
I am afraid, however, that health begins after seventy, and long before, to have a meaning different form that which it had at thirty. But it is culpable to murmur at the established order of creation as it is vain to oppose it. He that lives must grow old; and he that would rather grow old than die, has GOD to thank for the infirmities of old age.
'************ is a good man, Sir; but he is a vain man and a liar. He, however, only tells lies of vanity; of victories, for instance, in conversation, which never happened.'
A gentleman was lately telling in a company where I was present, that in France as soon as a man of fashion marries, he takes an opera girl into keeping; and this he mentioned as a general custom. "Pray, Sir, (said I,) how many opera girls may there be?" He answered , "About fourscore." "Well then, Sir, (said I,) you see there can be no more than fourscore men of fashion who can do this."
All the complaints that are made of the world are unjust. I never knew a man of merit neglected: it was generally by his own fault that he failed of success. A man may hide his head in a hole: he may go into the country, and publish a book now and then, which nobody reads, and then complain he is neglected.
It has, however, occurred to me, as a consolatory thought, that men of merit should consider thus: - How much harder would it be if the same persons had both all the merit and all the prosperity. Would this not be a miserable distribution for the poor dunces?
At first there is a great deal to be written, because there is a great deal of novelty; but when once a man has settled his opinions, there is seldom much to be set down.
He observed, "There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, "His memory is going."
"suicide of fashion"
One however, I must acknowledge, might be led, from the practice of reviewers, that they take a pleasure in original writing; for we often find, that instead of giving an accurate account of what has been done by the authour whose work they are reviewing, which is surely the proper business of a literary journal, they produce some plausible and ingenious conceits of their own, upon the topicks which have been discussed.
It has been said, there is pleasure in writing, particularly in writing verses. I allow you may have pleasure from writing, after it is over, if you have written well; but you don't go willingly to it again. I know when I have been writing verses, I have run my finger down the margin, to see how many I had made, and how few I had to make.
JOHNSON. 'My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do; you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble servant." You are not his most humble servant. You may say, "These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times." You don't mind the times. You tell a man, " I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet." You don't care six-pence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don't think foolishly.
I do not wonder at Johnson's displeasure when the name of Dr. Priestly was mentioned; for I know no writer who has been suffered to publish more pernicious doctrines. I shall instance only three. First, Materialism; by which mind is denied to human nature; which, if believed, must deprive us of every elevated principle. Secondly, Necessity; or the doctrine that every action, whether good or bad, is included in an unchangeable and unavoidable system; a notion utterly subversive of moral government. Thirdly, that we have no reason to think that the future world, (which, as he is pleased to inform us, will be adapted to our merely improved nature,) will be materially different from this; which I believed, would sink wretched mortals into despair, as they could no longer hope for the 'rest that remaineth for the people of GOD' [Hebrews, iv.9] , or for the happiness which is revealed to us as something beyond our present conceptions; but would feel themselves doomed to a continuation of the uneasy state under which they now groan. I say nothing of the petulant intemperance with which he dares to insult the venerable establishments of his country.
'Having promoted the institution of a new Club in the neighbourhood, at the house of an old servant of Thrale's, I went thither to meet the company, and was seized with spasmodick asthma so violent, that with difficulty I got to my own house, in which I have been confined eight or nine weeks, and from which I know not when I shall be able to go even to church. The asthma, however, is not the worst. A dropsy gains ground upon me; my legs and thighs are very much swollen with water, which I could be content if I could keep there, but I am afraid that it will soon be higher. My nights are very sleepless and very tedious. And yet I am extremely afraid of dying.'
'Death, my dear, is very dreadful; let us think nothing worth our care but how to prepare for it:
O! my friend, the approach of death is very dreadful. I am afraid to think on that which I know I cannot avoid. It is vain to look round and round for that help which cannot be had, Yet we hope and hope, and fancy that he who has lived to-day may live to-morrow. But let us learn to derive our hope only from GOD.
JOHNSON, 'Yes, Sir; but ________ has not the evangelical virtue of Langton, ________, I am afraid would not scruple to pick up a wench.'
'I am very ill indeed, Madam. I am very ill even when you are near me; what should I be were you at a distance?'
Law observes that "Every man knows something worse of himself, than he is sure of in others."
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.'
The difference, he observed, between a well-bred and an ill-bred man is this; 'One immediatly attracts your liking, the other your aversion. You love the one till you find reason to hate him; you hate the other till you find reason to love him.'
Of the caution necessary in adjusting narratives there is no end. Some tell what they do not know, that they may not seem ignorant, and others from mere indifference about truth. All truth is not, indeed, of equal importance; but, if little violations are allowed, every violation will in time be thought little; and a writer should keep himself vigilantly on his guard against the first temptations to negligence or supineness.
protracted existence is a good recompence for very considerable degrees of torture.
Ita enim acnertus honesta est, si se ipsa defendit, si jus suum retinet, si nemins emanucipata est, si usque ad externum vita spiritum vindicet jus suum.
the consoloatory doctrines peculiar to the Christian Revelation
wisdom impresses strongly the consciousness of those faults, of which it is, perhaps, itself an aggravation
And one who said in his presence, 'he had no notion of people being in earnest in their good professions, whose practice was not suitable to them' was thus reprimanded by him: Sir, are you so grossly ignorant of human nature as not to know that a man may be very sincere in good principles, without having good practice?'
Dr. Johnson related, with very earnest approbation, a story of a gentleman, who, in an impulse of passion overcame the virtue of a young woman. When she said to him 'I am afraid we have done wrong!' he answered, 'Yes we have done wrong; - for I would not debauch her mind.
so that knowledge, which we often see to be no better than lumber in men of dull understanding, was, in him, true, evident, and actual wisdom
Peter J Reilly, a career CPA and tax blogger, was recently dubbed an "independent scholar". It may have gone to his head. Prior to embarking on his career in public accounting, he tried to become an historian, but before that he was an English major. He was discouraged from that path by a professor who thought he was an idiot because he was under the impression that Moby Dick was a story about a bunch of guys working in the whaling industry. He might have done better if there was a course about James Gould Cozzens.