Sunday, May 29, 2016

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 122

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of 18th Century Women’s Studies, Assistant Women’s Greco-Roman Wrestling Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: A Mêlée at the Mitre, the Olney Community College Press

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, oils, watercolors and latex-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarqaroq™ productions.

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'Edinburgh, Dec. 5, 1775.


'Mr. Alexander Maclean, the young Laird of Col, being to set out to-morrow for London, I give him this letter to introduce him to your acquaintance. The kindness which you and I experienced from his brother, whose unfortunate death we sincerely lament, will make us always desirous to shew attention to any branch of the family. Indeed, you have so much of the true Highland cordiality, that I am sure you would have thought me to blame if I had neglected to recommend to you this Hebridean prince, in whose island we were hospitably entertained.


'I ever am with respectful attachment, my dear Sir, 
'Your most obliged 
'And most humble servant, 

Mr. Maclean returned with the most agreeable accounts of the polite attention with which he was received by Dr. Johnson.

In the course of this year Dr. Burney informs me that 'he very frequently met Dr. Johnson at Mr. Thrale's, at Streatham, where they had many long conversations, often sitting up as long as the fire and candles lasted, and much longer than the patience of the servants subsisted.'

A few of Johnson's sayings, which that gentleman recollects, shall here be inserted.

'I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night, and then the nap takes me.'

'The writer of an epitaph should not be considered as saying nothing but what is strictly true. Allowance must be made for some degree of exaggerated praise. In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath.'

'There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other.'

'I hate by-roads in education. Education is as well known, and has long been as well known, as ever it can be. Endeavouring 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 repaid. Too much is expected from precocity, and too little performed. Miss—— was an instance of early cultivation, but in what did it terminate? In marrying a little Presbyterian parson, who keeps an infant boarding-school, so that all her employment now is, "To suckle fools, and chronicle small-beer."

'She tells the children, "This is a cat, and that is a dog, with four legs and a tail; see there! you are much better than a cat or a dog, for you can speak." If I had bestowed such an education on a daughter, and had discovered that she thought of marrying such a fellow, I would have sent her to the Congress.'

'After having talked slightingly of musick, he was observed to listen very attentively while Miss Thrale played on the harpsichord.

Dr. Burney upon this said to him, "I believe, Sir, we shall make a musician of you at last."

Johnson with candid complacency replied, "Sir, I shall be glad to have a new sense given to me."'

'He had come down one morning to the breakfast-room, and been a considerable time by himself before any body appeared. When, on a subsequent day, he was twitted by Mrs. Thrale for being very late, which he generally was, he defended himself by alluding to the extraordinary morning, when he had been too early.

"Madam, I do not like to come down to vacuity."'

'Dr. Burney having remarked that Mr. Garrick was beginning to look old, he said, "Why, Sir, you are not to wonder at that; no man's face has had more wear and tear."’

Not having heard from him for a longer time than I supposed he would be silent, I wrote to him December 18, not in good spirits:—

'Sometimes I have been afraid that the cold which has gone over Europe this year like a sort of pestilence has seized you severely: sometimes my imagination, which is upon occasions prolifick of evil, hath figured that you may have somehow taken offence at some part of my conduct.'



'Never dream of any offence. How should you offend me? I consider your friendship as a possession, which I intend to hold till you take it from me, and to lament if ever by my fault I should lose it. However, when such suspicions find their way into your mind, always give them vent; I shall make haste to disperse them; but hinder their first ingress if you can. Consider such thoughts as morbid.

'How does the young Laird of Auchinleck? I suppose Miss Veronica is grown a reader and discourser.

'I have just now got a cough, but it has never yet hindered me from sleeping: I have had quieter nights than are common with me.

'Young Col brought me your letter. He is a very pleasing youth. I took him two days ago to the Mitre, and we dined together. I was as civil as I had the means of being.

'My compliments to Mrs. Boswell, who does not love me; and of all the rest, I need only send them to those that do: and I am afraid it will give you very little trouble to distribute them.

'I am, my dear, dear Sir,
'Your affectionate humble servant,

'December, 23, 1775.'

(classix comix™ is made possible through the continuing support of the Bob’s Bowery Bar Endowment for the Unpopular Arts: “Stranded in town over the holiday weekend due to straitened financial circumstances? Why not toddle over to Bob’s Bowery Bar and avail yourself of Bob’s Memorial Day BBQ Special: half a dozen charcoal-grilled wieners {your choice of ‘regular’, Kosher, or vegan} on a fragrant bed of ‘Bob’s Mom’s’ home-cured sauerkraut, served with Uneeda biscuits,

and all for a mere $1.95! {Offer good until 3am Tuesday morning or until supplies last.}” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents the Philip Morris Commander Dramatic Showcase, Mondays at 8pm (EST) exclusively on the Dumont Television Network; this week’s presentation: The Moribund Swan, by Hortense Pope St. Jacques, starring Angus Strongbow and Hyacinth Wilde, with special guest star Miss Kitty Carlisle.)

part 123

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