Sunday, May 21, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 170


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of 18th Century Cisgender Male Platonic Friendship Studies; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Mrs. Thrale Solves a Case, the Olney Community College Press.

Art and layout personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, lead-based poster paints by eddie el greco; lettering by "roy dismas) for penmarqartistiq™ productions.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here







On Saturday, April 4, I drank tea with Johnson at Dr. Taylor's, where he had dined. He entertained us with an account of a tragedy written by a Dr. Kennedy, (not the Lisbon physician.)

'The catastrophe of it (said he) was, that a King, who was jealous of his Queen with his prime-minister, castrated himself.'

It is hardly to be believed what absurd and indecent images men will introduce into their writings, without being sensible of the absurdity and indecency. 


He was very silent this evening; and read in a variety of books: suddenly throwing down one, and taking up another.

He talked of going to Streatham that night.

TAYLOR. 'You'll be robbed if you do: or you must shoot a highwayman. Now I would rather be robbed than do that; I would not shoot a highwayman.'

JOHNSON. 'But I would rather shoot him in the instant when he is attempting to rob me, than afterwards swear against him at the Old-Bailey, to take away his life, after he has robbed me. I am surer I am right in the one case than in the other.

I may be mistaken as to the man, when I swear: I cannot be mistaken, if I shoot him in the act. Besides, we feel less reluctance to take away a man's life, when we are heated by the injury, than to do it at a distance of time by an oath, after we have cooled.' 

BOSWELL. 'So, Sir, you would rather act from the motive of private passion, than that of publick advantage.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, when I shoot the highwayman I act from both.' 

BOSWELL. 'Very well, very well.—There is no catching him.' 

JOHNSON. 'At the same time one does not know what to say. For perhaps one may, a year after, hang himself from uneasiness for having shot a man. Few minds are fit to be trusted with so great a thing.' 

BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, you would not shoot him?' 

JOHNSON. 'But I might be vexed afterwards for that too.' 

Thrale's carriage not having come for him, as he expected, I accompanied him some part of the way home to his own house. I told him, that I had talked of him to Mr. Dunning {John Dunning, Member of Parliament, later the first Baron Ashburton – Editor} a few days before, and had said, that in his company we did not so much interchange conversation, as listen to him; and that Dunning observed, upon this, 'One is always willing to listen to Dr. Johnson:' to which I answered, 'That is a great deal from you, Sir.'

—'Yes, Sir, (said Johnson,) a great deal indeed. Here is a man willing to listen, to whom the world is listening all the rest of the year.'

BOSWELL. 'I think, Sir, it is right to tell one man of such a handsome thing, which has been said of him by another. It tends to increase benevolence.'

JOHNSON. 'Undoubtedly it is right, Sir.'

On Tuesday, April 7, I breakfasted with him at his house.

He said, 'nobody was content.' 

I mentioned to him a respectable person in Scotland whom he knew; and I asserted, that I really believed he was always content.

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir, he is not content with the present; he has always some new scheme, some new plantation, something which is future. You know he was not content as a widower; for he married again.' 

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 has done with external exertions. It is too late for him to engage in distant projects.'

BOSWELL. 'He seems to amuse himself quite well; to have his attention fixed, and his tranquillity preserved by very small matters. I have tried this; but it would not do with me.' 

JOHNSON, (laughing) 'No, Sir; it must be born with a man to be contented to take up with little things. Women have a great advantage that they may take up with little things, without disgracing themselves: a man cannot, except with fiddling. Had I learnt to fiddle, I should have done nothing else.' 

BOSWELL. 'Pray, Sir, did you ever play on any musical instrument?' 


JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. I once bought me a flagelet; but I never made out a tune.' 

BOSWELL. 'A flagelet, Sir!— so small an instrument? I should have liked to hear you play on the violoncello. That should have been your instrument.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, I might as well have played on the violoncello as another; but I should have done nothing else. No, Sir; a man would never undertake great things, could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting. Dempster's sister undertook to teach me; but I could not learn it.' 

BOSWELL. 'So, Sir; it will be related in pompous narrative, "Once for his amusement he tried knotting; nor did this Hercules disdain the distaff."' 

JOHNSON. 'Knitting of stockings is a good amusement. As a freeman of Aberdeen I should be a knitter of stockings.' 

He asked me to go down with him and dine at Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to which I agreed. I had lent him An Account of Scotland, in 1702, written by a man of various enquiry, an English chaplain to a regiment stationed there. 


JOHNSON. 'It is sad stuff, Sir, miserably written, as books in general then were. There is now an elegance of style universally diffused. No man now writes so ill as Martin's Account of the Hebrides is written. A man could not write so ill, if he should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to write, and he'll do better.'

He talked to me with serious concern of a certain female friend's 'laxity of narration, and inattention to truth.'

—'I am as much vexed (said he) at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to her, as at the thing itself. I told her, "Madam, you are contented to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have died for, rather than bear."

— You know, Sir, the highest of mankind have died rather than bear to be told they had uttered a falsehood. Do talk to her of it: I am weary.'


(classix comix™ is brought to you by the friendly folks at Bob’s Bowery Bar, conveniently located at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Don’t forget, folks – every Wednesday night at Bob’s Bowery Bar is Shrimp Night! ‘Peel-’em-yourself’ fresh-caught East River shrimps steamed in Bob’s Basement-Brewed Bock, and then tossed in Bob’s Mom’s Super-Spicy Hellfire Rub at the low, low price of only a buck-fifty a quart! Offer only good while supplies last.”

– Horace P. Sternwall, your host and narrator of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Philip Morris Commander’s “Blanche Weinberg: Lady Psychiatrist”, broadcast live Sundays at 8pm (EST) exclusively on the Dumont Television Network. This week’s play: Dr. Blanche Falls in Love, by Harley Pat St. John, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with returning special guest star Montgomery Clift as “Mr. Walker”.)




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 169


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of 18th Century Psychological Disorder Studies; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Missing Hogshead of Claret, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, lithography, sustainable water-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarq transplanetary productions™

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here







E. 'From the experience which I have had,— and I have had a great deal,— I have learnt to think better of mankind.'

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.' 


JOHNSON. 'And really it is wonderful, considering how much attention is necessary for men to take care of themselves, and ward off immediate evils which press upon them, it is wonderful how much they do for others. As it is said of the greatest liar, that he tells more truth than falsehood; so it may be said of the worst man, that he does more good than evil.' 

BOSWELL. 'Perhaps from experience men may be found happier than we suppose.' 


JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; the more we enquire, we shall find men the less happy.' 

P. 'As to thinking better or worse of mankind from experience, some cunning people will not be satisfied unless they have put men to the test, as they think. There is a very good story told of Sir Godfrey Kneller, in his character of a Justice of the peace. A gentleman brought his servant before him, upon an accusation of having stolen some money from him; but it having come out that he had laid it purposely in the servant's way, in order to try his honesty, Sir Godfrey sent the master to prison.' 


JOHNSON. 'To resist temptation once, is not a sufficient proof of honesty. If a servant, indeed, were to resist the continued temptation of silver lying in a window, as some people let it lye, when he is sure his master does not know how much there is of it, he would give a strong proof of honesty. But this is a proof to which you have no right to put a man. You know, humanly speaking, there is a certain degree of temptation, which will overcome any virtue. Now, in so far as you approach temptation to a man, you do him an injury; and, if he is overcome, you share his guilt.' 

P. 'And, when once overcome, it is easier for him to be got the better of again.' 


BOSWELL. 'Yes, you are his seducer; you have debauched him. I have known a man resolved to put friendship to the test, by asking a friend to lend him money merely with that view, when he did not want it.' 

JOHNSON. 'That is very wrong, Sir. Your friend may be a narrow man, and yet have many good qualities: narrowness may be his only fault. Now you are trying his general character as a friend, by one particular singly, in which he happens to be defective, when, in truth, his character is composed of many particulars.'


E. 'I understand the hogshead of claret, which this society was favoured with by our friend the Dean, is nearly out; I think he should be written to, to send another of the same kind. Let the request be made with a happy ambiguity of expression, so that we may have the chance of his sending it also as a present.' 

JOHNSON. 'I am willing to offer my services as secretary on this occasion.' 

P. 'As many as are for Dr. Johnson being secretary hold up your hands.— Carried unanimously.' 


BOSWELL. 'He will be our Dictator.' 

JOHNSON. 'No, the company is to dictate to me. I am only to write for wine; and I am quite disinterested, as I drink none; I shall not be suspected of having forged the application. I am no more than humble scribe.'

E. 'Then you shall pre-scribe.'

JOHNSON. 'Were I your Dictator you should have no wine. Rome was ruined by luxury,' (smiling.)

E. 'If you allow no wine as Dictator, you shall not have me for your master of horse.'


(classix comix™ is made possible in part through a continuing grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar Fund for the Unpopular Arts: “I should like to remind our viewers that every Tuesday evening is ‘Wing Ding’ night at Bob’s Bowery Bar: Bob’s Mom’s proprietary ‘Hellzapoppin’ Free Range Jumbo Chicken Wings’ at the low, low price of two-bits a wing – yes, that’s right, folks, one quarter of a US dollar for each succulent ‘n’ super-spicy super-size wing from 5pm till 3am – offer good only while supplies last, so get there early, and come prepared to quaff copious quantities of Bob’s basement-brewed house bock, because when I say these wings are spicy I’m talking four-alarm spicy!”

– Horace P. Sternwall, your host and narrator of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Philip Morris Commander’s “Blanche Weinberg: Lady Psychiatrist”, broadcast live Sundays at 8pm (EST) exclusively on the Dumont Television Network. This week’s play: The Amorous Agoraphobe, by Hank Pete Stippleman, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Sal Mineo as “Tommy”.)



part 170


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 168


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of 18th Century Illustrated Literature; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Brave Little Urchin, the Olney Community College Press.

Art and layout personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, lead-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by "roy dismas) for the penmarq/sternwall™ ateliers et cie.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here







On Friday, April 3, I dined with him in London, in a company where were present several eminent men, whom I shall not name, but distinguish their parts in the conversation by different letters.

F. 'I have been looking at this famous antique marble dog of Mr. Jennings, valued at a thousand guineas, said to be Alcibiades's dog.' 

JOHNSON. 'His tail then must be docked. That was the mark of Alcibiades's dog.' 


E. 'A thousand guineas! The representation of no animal whatever is worth so much, at this rate a dead dog would indeed be better than a living lion.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is not the worth of the thing, but of the skill in forming it which is so highly estimated. Every thing that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shews man he can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable. The first man who balanced a straw upon his nose; who rode upon three horses at a time; in short, all such men deserved the applause of mankind, not on account of the use of what they did, but of the dexterity which they exhibited.' 


BOSWELL. 'Yet a misapplication of time and assiduity is not to be encouraged. Addison, in one of his Spectators, commends the judgement of a King, who, as a suitable reward to a man that by long perseverance had attained to the art of throwing a barleycorn through the eye of a needle, gave him a bushel of barley.' 

JOHNSON. 'He must have been a King of Scotland, where barley is scarce.' 


F. 'One of the most remarkable antique figures of an animal is the boar at Florence.' 

JOHNSON. 'The first boar that is well made in marble, should be preserved as a wonder. When men arrive at a facility of making boars well, then the workmanship is not of such value, but they should however be preserved as examples, and as a greater security for the restoration of the art, should it be lost.'


E. 'We hear prodigious complaints at present of emigration. I am convinced that emigration makes a country more populous.' 

J. 'That sounds very much like a paradox.' 

E. 'Exportation of men, like exportation of all other commodities, makes more be produced.' 

JOHNSON. 'But there would be more people were there not emigration, provided there were food for more.' 


E. 'No; leave a few breeders, and you'll have more people than if there were no emigration.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, it is plain there will be more people, if there are more breeders. Thirty cows in good pasture will produce more calves than ten cows, provided they have good bulls.' 

E. 'There are bulls enough in Ireland.' 

JOHNSON. (smiling,) 'So, Sir, I should think from your argument.' 


C. 'It is remarkable that the most unhealthy countries, where there are the most destructive diseases, such as Egypt and Bengal, are the most populous.' 

JOHNSON. 'Countries which are the most populous have the most destructive diseases. That is the true state of the proposition.' 

C. 'Holland is very unhealthy, yet it is exceedingly populous.' 


JOHNSON. 'I know not that Holland is unhealthy. But its populousness is owing to an influx of people from all other countries. Disease cannot be the cause of populousness, for it not only carries off a great proportion of the people, but those who are left are weakened and unfit for the purposes of increase.'

R. 'Mr. E., I don't mean to flatter, but when posterity reads one of your speeches in Parliament, it will be difficult to believe that you took so much pains, knowing with certainty that it could produce no effect, that not one vote would be gained by it.'


E. 'Waiving your compliment to me, I shall say in general, that it is very well worth while for a man to take pains to speak well in Parliament. A man, who has vanity, speaks to display his talents; and if a man speaks well, he gradually establishes a certain reputation and consequence in the general opinion, which sooner or later will have its political reward.' 

JOHNSON. 'And, Sir, there is a gratification of pride. Though we cannot out-vote them we will out-argue them. They shall not do wrong without its being shown both to themselves and to the world.' 


E. 'The House of Commons is a mixed body. It is a mass by no means pure; but neither is it wholly corrupt, though there is a large proportion of corruption in it. There are many honest well-meaning country gentleman who are in parliament only to keep up the consequence of their families. Upon most of these a good speech will have influence.' 

JOHNSON. 'We are all more or less governed by interest. But interest will not make us do every thing. In a case which admits of doubt, we try to think on the side which is for our interest, and generally bring ourselves to act accordingly. In the House of Commons there are members enough who will not vote what is grossly unjust or absurd. No, Sir, there must always be right enough, or appearance of right, to keep wrong in countenance.' 


JOHNSON. 'I have been reading Thicknesse's Travels, which I think are entertaining.'

BOSWELL. 'What, Sir, a good book?'

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, to read once; I do not say you are to make a study of it, and digest it; and I believe it to be a true book in his intention. All travellers generally mean to tell truth; though Thicknesse observes, upon Smollet's account of his alarming a whole town in France by firing a blunderbuss, that he would be loth to say Smollet had told two lies in one page; but he had found the only town in France where these things could have happened.

Travellers must often be mistaken. In every thing, except where mensuration can be applied, they may honestly differ. There has been, of late, a strange turn in travellers to be displeased.' 


(classix comix™ is underwritten in part by the Bob’s Bowery Bar Endowment for Excellence in Art and Literature: “Don’t forget, folks, every Monday evening at Bob’s Bowery Bar means ‘Singalong with Tony’, with Tony Winston on the upright Steinway, and featuring an array of guest artistes from Broadway, radio, and television. The fun starts at eight and lasts until closing at 4am!”

– Horace P. Sternwall, your host and narrator of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Philip Morris Commander’s “Blanche Weinberg: Lady Psychiatrist”, broadcast live Sundays at 8pm (EST) exclusively on the Dumont Television Network. This week’s play: The Man Who Thought Everyone Else Was Fictional, by Henri-Pierre Sazerac, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Montgomery Clift reprising his rĂ´le as “Mr. K.”.)



part 169