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 rôle as “Mr. K.”.)

part 169

No comments:

Post a Comment