Sunday, July 26, 2015

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 87

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D, Assistant Professor of Young Adult Literature, Assistant Croquet Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: General Paoli’s Problem, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork by rhoda penmarq (with the assistance of roy dismas and eddie el greco) for rhoda penmarq unlimited productions™.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

On Tuesday, March 31, he and I dined at General Paoli's. 

A question was started, whether the state of marriage was natural to man. 

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.'

The General said, that in a state of nature a man and woman uniting together, would form a strong and constant affection, by the mutual pleasure each would receive; and that the same causes of dissention would not arise between them, as occur between husband and wife in a civilized state.

JOHNSON. 'Sir, they would have dissentions enough, though of another kind. One would choose to go a hunting in this wood, the other in that; one would choose to go a fishing in this lake, the other in that; or, perhaps, one would choose to go a hunting, when the other would choose to go a fishing; and so they would part. Besides, Sir, a savage man and a savage woman meet by chance; and when the man sees another woman that pleases him better, he will leave the first.'

We then fell into a disquisition whether there is any beauty independent of utility. The General maintained there was not. Dr. Johnson maintained that there was; and he instanced a coffee-cup which he held in his hand, the painting of which was of no real use, as the cup would hold the coffee equally well if plain; yet the painting was beautiful.

We talked of the strange custom of swearing in conversation. The General said, that all barbarous nations swore from a certain violence of temper, that could not be confined to earth, but was always reaching at the powers above. He said, too, that there was greater variety of swearing, in proportion as there was a greater variety of religious ceremonies.

Dr. Johnson went home with me to my lodgings in Conduit-street and drank tea, previous to our going to the Pantheon, which neither of us had seen before.

He said, 'Goldsmith's Life of Parnell is poor; not that it is poorly written, but that he had poor materials; for nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him.'

I said, that if it was not troublesome and presuming too much, I would request him to tell me all the little circumstances of his life; what schools he attended, when he came to Oxford, when he came to London, &c. &c. He did not disapprove of my curiosity as to these particulars; but said, 'They'll come out by degrees as we talk together.'

We talked of the proper use of riches.

JOHNSON. 'If I were a man of a great estate, I would drive all the rascals whom I did not like out of the county at an election.’

I asked him how far he thought wealth should be employed in hospitality.

JOHNSON. 'You are to consider that ancient hospitality, of which we hear so much, was in an uncommercial country, when men being idle, were glad to be entertained at rich men's tables. But in a commercial country, a busy country, time becomes precious, and therefore hospitality is not so much valued. No doubt there is still room for a certain degree of it; and a man has a satisfaction in seeing his friends eating and drinking around him.

But promiscuous hospitality is not the way to gain real influence. You must help some people at table before others; you must ask some people how they like their wine oftener than others. You therefore offend more people than you please.

You are like the French statesman, who said, when he granted a favour, 'J'ai fait dix mécontents et un ingrat.' Besides, Sir, being entertained ever so well at a man's table, impresses no lasting regard or esteem. No, Sir, the way to make sure of power and influence is, by lending money confidentially to your neighbours at a small interest, or, perhaps, at no interest at all, and having their bonds in your possession.' 

BOSWELL. 'May not a man, Sir, employ his riches to advantage in educating young men of merit?' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, if they fall in your way; but if it be understood that you patronize young men of merit, you will be harassed with solicitations. You will have numbers forced upon you who have no merit; some will force them upon you from mistaken partiality; and some from downright interested motives, without scruple; and you will be disgraced.'

'Were I a rich man, I would propagate all kinds of trees that will grow in the open air. A greenhouse is childish. I would introduce foreign animals into the country; for instance the reindeer.'

We then walked to the Pantheon.

The first view of it did not strike us so much as Ranelagh, of which he said, the 'coup d'oeil was the finest thing he had ever seen.' 

I said there was not half a guinea's worth of pleasure in seeing this place.

JOHNSON. 'But, Sir, there is half a guinea's worth of inferiority to other people in not having seen it.'

BOSWELL. 'I doubt, Sir, whether there are many happy people here.'

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, there are many happy people here. There are many people here who are watching hundreds, and who think hundreds are watching them.'

Happening to meet Sir Adam Fergusson, I presented him to Dr. Johnson. Sir Adam expressed some apprehension that the Pantheon would encourage luxury.

'Sir, (said Johnson,) I am a great friend to publick amusements; for they keep people from vice. You now (addressing himself to me,) would have been with a wench, had you not been here.— O! I forgot you were married.'

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 perceive 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 form 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.' 

Sir Adam introduced the ancient Greeks and Romans. 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, the mass of both of them were barbarians. The mass of every people must be barbarous where there is no printing, and consequently knowledge is not generally diffused . Knowledge is diffused among our people by the news-papers.'

Sir Adam mentioned the orators, poets, and artists of Greece.

JOHNSON. 'Sir, I am talking of the mass of the people. We see even what the boasted Athenians were. The little effect which Demosthenes's orations had upon them, shews that they were barbarians.'

Sir Adam was unlucky in his topicks; 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.'

(To be continued. This adaptation of Boswell’s Life of Johnson is made possible through a generous grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar Endowment for the Unpopular Arts: “Eschewing false modesty, allow me to recommend ‘The Sternwall Summer Brunch Special’ at Bob’s Bowery Bar: ‘Bob’s Mom’s’ homemade cornmeal mush, fried to perfection and topped with two ‘sunny-side fried’ free-range eggs, with two hearty slabs of fried organic scrapple, lightly-breaded and fried Jersey tomato slices,

and fresh-baked ‘n’ fried sourdough rolls served with ‘Mom’s peach preserves’, all of it washed down with lashings of strong Assam tea and finished off with a tall schooner of Bob’s famous ‘basement brewed’ house bock!” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents The Horace P. Sternwall Mystery Hour, broadcast live on Tuesdays at 8pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.)

part 88

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Selections from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: “R”

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Physical Reëducation, Assistant Mah-Jongg Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Revolting Revolutionary; the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils, inks, colors and lettering by roy dismas; copy-editing by eddie el greco) for rhoda penmarq™ post-post-modern productions.

to begin selections from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

for previous selection from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

to begin at the beginning of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

for previous chapter of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here


R is called the canine letter, because it is uttered with some resemblance to the growl or snarl of a cur: it has one constant sound in English, such as it has in other languages; as red, rose, more, muriatick:

in words derived from the Greek, it is followed by an h, rhapsody: r is never mute, unless the second r may be accounted mute, where two rr are used; as myrrh.


To Rabate. In falconry, to recover a hawk to the fist again.


Rearmouse.  The leather-winged bat.

Some war with rearmice for their leathern wings
To make small elves coats.  Shakesp.


Red.  Of the colour of blood, of one of the primitive colours, which is subdivided into many; as scarlet, vermilion, crimson.

His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.  Gen. xlix. 12.


Reprobate.  A man lost to virtue; a wretch abandoned to wickedness.

I acknowledge myself for a reprobate, a villain, a traytor to the king, and the most unworthy man that ever lived.  Ral. 


Reptile.  An animal that creeps upon many feet.

Terrestial animals may be divided into quadrupeds or reptiles, which have many feet, and serpents which have no feet.  Locke's Elements of Natural Philosophy.


Rhabdomancy.  Divination by a wand.

Of peculiar rhabdomancy is that which is used in mineral discoveries, with a forked hazel, commonly called Moses's rod, which, freely held forth, will stir and play if any mine be under it.  Brown's Vulgar Errours.


Rhetorick.  The act of speaking not merely with propriety, but with art and elegance.

Grammar teacheth us to speak properly, rhetorick instructs to speak elegantly.  Baker's Reflections on Learning.


Rhinoceros.  A vast beast in the East Indies armed with a horn in his front.

Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,

The arm'd rhinoceros, or Hyrcanian tyger;

Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves

Shall never tremble.  Shakesp. Macbeth.


Ribaldry.  Mean, lewd, brutal language.

Mr. Cowley asserts, that obscenity has no place in wit; Buckingham says, ‘tis an ill sort of wit, which has nothing more to support it than bare-face ribaldryDryden.


Rice.  One of the esculent grains: it hath its grains disposed into a panicle, which are almost of an oval figure, and are covered with a thick husk, somewhat like barley: this grain is greatly cultivated in most of the Eastern countries.

Rice is the food of two thirds of mankind; it is kindly to human constitutions, proper for the consumptive, and those subject to hæmorrhages.  Arbuthnot.


Ridicule.  Wit of that species that provokes laughter.

Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,

And the sad burthen of some merry song.  Pope.


Risibility.  The quality of laughing.

Whatever the philosophers may talk of their risibility, neighing is a more noble expression than laughing.  Arbuth.


Rubicund.  Inclining to redness.


Ruffian.  A brutal, boisterous, mischievous fellow; a cutthroat; a robber; a murderer.

Have you a ruffian that will swear? drink? dance?
Revel the night? rob? murder?  Shakesp. Henry IV.


To Run. To move swiftly; to ply the legs in such a manner, as that both feet are at every step off the ground at the same time; to make haste; to pass with very quick pace.

Their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.  Prov.


(Our illustrated abridgement of Boswell’s Life of Johnson will resume next week. Classix Comix is made possible in part through a generous grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Foundation for the Uncommercial Arts: “Allow me to recommend Bob’s Bowery Bar’s ‘Eye-Opener Special’: a tall schooner of Bob’s justly-famed ‘basement-brewed’ house bock with a large organic raw egg in it and a shot of Windsor Canadian on the side – a bargain at only two dollars!

{Offer good between the hours of 6am to 9pm, seven days a week; limit four ‘specials’ per customer.}” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Bob’s Bowery Bar’s Midnight Tales with Horace P. Sternwall, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network, Saturdays at midnight, EST.)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 86

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D, Professor Emeritus of Alchemical Studies, Assistant Lawn Tennis Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Return of the Drunken Lord, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils, inks, and colors by roy dismas; lettering by eddie el greco) for rhoda penmarq™ international enterprises, inc.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

BOSWELL. 'It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the accents of words, if you can but remember them.'

BOSWELL. 'But , Sir, we want marks to ascertain the pronunciation of the vowels. Sheridan, I believe, has finished such a work.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, consider how much easier it is to learn a language by the ear, than by any marks. Sheridan's Dictionary may do very well; but you cannot always carry it about with you: and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary. It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw. It is an admirable sword, to be sure: but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it.

Besides, Sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English? He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman: and if he says he will fix it after the example of the best company, why they differ among themselves. I remember an instance: when I published the Plan for my Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to state; and Sir William Yonge sent me word that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it trait. Now here were two men of the highest rank, the one, the best speaker in the House of Lords, the other, the best speaker in the House of Commons, differing entirely.'

I again visited him at night. Finding him in a very good humour, I ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point.

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of GOD, in the contemplation of truth, and in the possession of felicitating ideas.'

BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, is there any harm in our forming to ourselves conjectures as to the particulars of our happiness, though the scripture has said but very little on the subject? "We know not what we shall be."'

JOHNSON. 'Sir, there is no harm. What philosophy suggests to us on this topick is probable: what scripture tells us is certain. Dr. Henry More has carried it as far as philosophy can. You may buy both his theological and philosophical works in two volumes folio, for about eight shillings.'

BOSWELL. 'One of the most pleasing thoughts is, that we shall see our friends again.'

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir; but you must consider, that when we are become purely rational, many of our friendships will be cut off. Many friendships are formed by a community of sensual pleasures: all these will be cut off. We form many friendships with bad men, because they have agreeable qualities, and they can be useful to us; but, after death, they can no longer be of use to us.

We form many friendships by mistake, imagining people to be different from what they really are. After death, we shall see every one in a true light. Then, Sir, they talk of our meeting our relations: but then all relationship is dissolved; and we shall have no regard for one person more than another, but for their real value. However, we shall either have the satisfaction of meeting our friends, or be satisfied without meeting them.' 

BOSWELL. 'Yet, Sir, we see in scripture, that Dives still retained an anxious concern about his brethren.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, we must either suppose that passage to be metaphorical, or hold with many divines, and all the Purgatorians that departed souls do not all at once arrive at the utmost perfection of which they are capable.'

BOSWELL. 'I think, Sir, that is a very rational supposition.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, yes, Sir; but we do not know it is a true one. There is no harm in believing it: but you must not compel others to make it an article of faith; for it is not revealed.'

BOSWELL. 'Do you think, Sir, it is wrong in a man who holds the doctrine of purgatory, to pray for the souls of his deceased friends?'

JOHNSON. 'Why, no, Sir.'

BOSWELL. 'I have been told, that in the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, there was a form of prayer for the dead.'

JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is not in the liturgy which Laud framed for the Episcopal Church of Scotland: if there is a liturgy older than that, I should be glad to see it.'

BOSWELL. 'As to our employment in a future state, the sacred writings say little. The Revelation, however, of St. John gives us many ideas, and particularly mentions musick.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, ideas must be given you by means of something which you know: and as to musick there are some philosophers and divines who have maintained that we shall not be spiritualized to such a degree, but that something of matter, very much refined, will remain. In that case, musick may make a part of our future felicity.'

BOSWELL. 'This objection is made against the truth of ghosts appearing: that if they are in a state of happiness, it would be a punishment to them to return to this world; and if they are in a state of misery, it would be giving them a respite.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, as the happiness or misery of embodied spirits does not depend upon place, but is intellectual, we cannot say that they are less happy or less miserable by appearing upon earth.'

We went down between twelve and one to Mrs. Williams's room, and drank tea. I mentioned that we were to have the remains of Mr. Gray, in prose and verse, published by Mr. Mason.

JOHNSON. 'I think we have had enough of Gray. I see they have published a splendid edition of Akenside's works. One bad ode may be suffered; but a number of them together makes one sick.'

BOSWELL. 'Akenside's distinguished poem is his Pleasures of Imagination: but for my part, I never could admire it so much as most people do.'

JOHNSON. 'Sir, I could not read it through.' 

I mentioned Elwal, the heretick, whose trial Sir John Pringle had given me to read.

JOHNSON. 'Sir, Mr. Elwal was, I think, an ironmonger at Wolverhampton; and he had a mind to make himself famous, by being the founder of a new sect, which he wished much should be called Elwallians. He held, that every thing in the Old Testament that was not typical, was to be of perpetual observance; and so he wore a ribband in the plaits of his coat, and he also wore a beard. I remember I had the honour of dining in company with Mr. Elwal. There was one Barter, a miller, who wrote against him; and you had the controversy between Mr. ELWAL and Mr. BARTER. To try to make himself distinguished, he wrote a letter to King George the Second, challenging him to dispute with him, in which he said,

"George, if you be afraid to come by yourself, to dispute with a poor old man, you may bring a thousand of your black-guards with you; and if you should still be afraid, you may bring a thousand of your red-guards." The letter had something of the impudence of Junius to our present King. But the men of Wolverhampton were not so inflammable as the Common-Council of London; so Mr. Elwal failed in his scheme of making himself a man of great consequence.' 

(To be continued. This episode of “classix comix” was sponsored in part by the good people at Bob’s Bowery Bar: “Ever get one of those hankerings for some good old-fashioned ‘comfort food’? I sure know I do, and when I get that yen I often find myself at Bob’s Bowery Bar – conveniently located at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery –

ordering up a soul-soothing big bowl of Bob’s ‘Baked Beans, Bangers ‘n’ Bacon’ – available also without the bangers and bacon for those of you of the vegetarian persuasion!” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of The Bob’s Bowery Bar Dramatic Showcase, broadcast live Saturdays at 8pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.)

part 87

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 85

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D, Assistant Professor of Graphic Novels and “Comic” Books, Assistant Jai-Alai Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Incident of the Purloined Port , the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally coördinated by rhoda penmarq (design, drawing, colors by roy dismas ; lettering by eddie el greco ) for rhoda penmarq hyperbolic productions™.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

On Monday, March 23, I found him busy, preparing a fourth edition of his folio Dictionary. Mr. Peyton, one of his original amanuenses, was writing for him.

I put him in mind of a meaning of the word side, which he had omitted, viz. relationship; as father's side, mother's side. He inserted it. I asked him if humiliating was a good word. He said, he had seen it frequently used, but he did not know it to be legitimate English. He would not admit civilization, but only civility. With great deference to him, I thought civilization, from to civilize better in the sense opposed to barbarity, than civility; as it is better to have a distinct word for each sense, than one word with two senses, which civility is, in his way of using it.

He seemed also to be intent on some sort of chymical operation. I was entertained by observing how he contrived to send Mr. Peyton on an errand, without seeming to degrade him. 

'Mr. Peyton,— Mr. Peyton, will you be so good as to take a walk to Temple-Bar? You will there see a chymist's shop; at which you will be pleased to buy for me an ounce of oil of vitriol; not spirit of vitriol, but oil of vitriol. It will cost three half-pence.' 

Peyton immediately went, and returned with it, and told him it cost but a penny.

I then reminded him of the schoolmaster's cause, and proposed to read to him the printed papers concerning it. 

'No, Sir, (said he,) I can read quicker than I can hear.'

So he read them to himself.

After he had read for some time, we were interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Kristrom, a Swede, who was tutor to some young gentlemen in the city.

We talked of languages. Johnson observed, that Leibnitz had made some progress in a work, tracing all languages up to the Hebrew.

'Why, Sir, (said he,) you would not imagine that the French jour, day, is derived from the Latin dies, and yet nothing is more certain; and the intermediate steps are very clear. From dies, comes diurnus. Diu is, by inaccurate ears, or inaccurate pronunciation, easily confounded with giu; then the Italians form a substantive of the ablative of an adjective, and thence giurno, or, as they make it, giorno; which is readily contracted into giour, or jour.'

He observed, that the Bohemian language was true Sclavonick. The Swede said, it had some similarity with the German.

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, to be sure, such parts of Sclavonia as confine with Germany, will borrow German words; and such parts as confine with Tartary will borrow Tartar words.'

He said, he never had it properly ascertained that the Scotch Highlanders and the Irish understood each other. I told him that my cousin Colonel Graham, of the Royal Highlanders, whom I met at Drogheda, told me they did.

JOHNSON. 'Sir, if the Highlanders understood Irish, why translate the New Testament into Erse, as was done lately at Edinburgh, when there is an Irish translation?' 

BOSWELL. 'Although the Erse and Irish are both dialects of the same language, there may be a good deal of diversity between them, as between the different dialects in Italy.'

— The Swede went away, and Mr. Johnson continued his reading of the papers. 

I said, 'I am afraid, Sir, it is troublesome.' 

'Why, Sir, (said he,) I do not take much delight in it; but I'll go through it.'

We went to the Mitre, and dined in the room where he and I first supped together. He gave me great hopes of my cause. 

'Sir, (said he ,) the government of a schoolmaster is somewhat of the nature of military government; that is to say, it must be arbitrary, it must be exercised by the will of one man, according to particular circumstances. You must shew some learning upon this occasion. You must shew, that a schoolmaster has a prescriptive right to beat; and that an action of assault and battery cannot be admitted against him, unless there is some great excess, some barbarity. This man has maimed none of his boys. They are all left with the full exercise of their corporeal faculties. In our schools in England, many boys have been maimed; yet I never heard of an action against a schoolmaster on that account. Puffendorf, I think, maintains the right of a schoolmaster to beat his scholars.’

On Saturday, March 27, I introduced to him Sir Alexander Macdonald, with whom he had expressed a wish to be acquainted. He received him very courteously. 

Sir Alexander observed, that the Chancellors in England are chosen from views much inferiour to the office, being chosen from temporary political views.

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, in such a government as ours, no man is appointed to an office because he is the fittest for it, nor hardly in any other government; because there are so many connections and dependencies to be studied. A despotick prince may choose a man to an office, merely because he is the fittest for it. The King of Prussia may do it.'

SIR A. 'I think, Sir, almost all great lawyers, such at least as have written upon law, have known only law, and nothing else.'

JOHNSON. 'Why no, Sir; Judge Hale was a great lawyer, and wrote upon law; and yet he knew a great many other things, and has written upon other things. Selden too.'

SIR A. 'Very true, Sir; and Lord Bacon. But was not Lord Coke a mere lawyer?'

JOHNSON. 'Why, I am afraid he was; but he would have taken it very ill if you had told him so. He would have prosecuted you for scandal.'

BOSWELL. 'Lord Mansfield is not a mere lawyer.'

JOHNSON. 'No , Sir. I never was in Lord Mansfield's company; but Lord Mansfield was distinguished at the University. Lord Mansfield, when he first came to town, "drank champagne with the wits," as Prior says. He was the friend of Pope.' 

SIR A. 'Barristers, I believe, are not so abusive now as they were formerly. I fancy they had less law long ago, and so were obliged to take to abuse, to fill up the time. Now they have such a number of precedents, they have no occasion for abuse.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, they had more law long ago than they have now. As to precedents, to be sure they will increase in course of time; but the more precedents there are, the less occasion is there for law; that is to say, the less occasion is there for investigating principles.'

SIR A. 'I have been correcting several Scotch accents in my friend Boswell. I doubt, Sir, if any Scotchman ever attains to a perfect English pronunciation.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, few of them do, because they do not persevere after acquiring a certain degree of it. But, Sir, there can be no doubt that they may attain to a perfect English pronunciation, if they will. We find how near they come to it; and certainly, a man who conquers nineteen parts of the Scottish accent, may conquer the twentieth.

But, Sir, when a man has got the better of nine tenths he grows weary, he relaxes his diligence, he finds he has corrected his accent so far as not to be disagreeable, and he no longer desires his friends to tell him when he is wrong; nor does he choose to be told. Sir, when people watch me narrowly, and I do not watch myself, they will find me out to be of a particular county. In the same manner, Dunning may be found out to be a Devonshire man. So most Scotchmen may be found out. But, Sir, little aberrations are of no disadvantage. I never catched Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose, was past five-and-twenty before he came to London.'

Upon another occasion I talked to him on this subject, having myself taken some pains to improve my pronunciation, by the aid of the late Mr. Love, of Drury-lane theatre, when he was a player at Edinburgh, and also of old Mr. Sheridan.

Johnson said to me, 'Sir , your pronunciation is not offensive.'

With this concession I was pretty well satisfied; and let me give my countrymen of North-Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this respect; not to speak High English, as we are apt to call what is far removed from the Scotch, but which is by no means good English, and makes, 'the fools who use it,' truly ridiculous.

Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth of an unaffected English Gentleman. A studied and factitious pronunciation, which requires perpetual attention and imposes perpetual constraint, is exceedingly disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were all exactly alike. I could name some gentlemen of Ireland, to whom a slight proportion of the accent and recitative of that country is an advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland. I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous member of Parliament from that country.

I would give as an instance of what I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot; and may I presume to add that of the present Earl of Marchmont, who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a shop in London, where he was not known, said to him,

'I suppose, Sir, you are an American.'

'Why so, Sir?' (said his Lordship .)

'Because, Sir, (replied the shopkeeper,) you speak neither English nor Scotch, but something different from both, which I conclude is the language of America.'

(To be continued. “classix comix” is made possible in part through a generous grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar Foundation for the Literary and Graphic Arts: “Be sure to take advantage of Bob’s Bowery Bar’s ‘Summer BBQ’ Menu, featuring my own favorite, the Pit-Roasted Wild-Hog Special:

deeply flavorful pulled wild-hog pork slathered with ‘special’ spicy chutney on one of ‘Mom’s Own’ sourdough rolls, served with your choice of organic corn on the cob or coleslaw!” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Horace P. Sternwall’s Tales of Bob’s Bowery Bar, Wednesdays at 10pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.)

part 86