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™

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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.'

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– 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

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