Sunday, May 28, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 171

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of 18th Century Oral History Studies; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Thirteen Bottles of Port, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, cgi, found objects by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a penmarq™/quinn martin™ co-production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

BOSWELL. 'Was not Dr. John Campbell a very inaccurate man in his narrative, Sir? He once told me, that he drank thirteen bottles of port at a sitting.'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I do not know that Campbell ever lied with pen and ink; but you could not entirely depend on any thing he told you in conversation. However, I loved Campbell: he was a solid orthodox man: he had a reverence for religion. Though defective in practice, he was religious in principle; and he did nothing grossly wrong that I have heard.'

I told him, that I had been present the day before, when Mrs. Montagu, the literary lady, sat to Miss Reynolds for her picture; and that she said, 'she had bound up Mr. Gibbon's History without the last two offensive chapters; for that she thought the book so far good, as it gave, in an elegant manner, the substance of the bad writers, which the late Lord Lyttelton advised her to read.'

JOHNSON. 'Sir, she has not read them: she shews none of this impetuosity to me: she does not know Greek, and, I fancy, knows little Latin. She is willing you should think she knows them; but she does not say she does.'

BOSWELL. 'Mr. Harris, who was present, agreed with her.'

JOHNSON. 'Harris was laughing at her, Sir. Harris is a sound sullen scholar; he does not like interlopers. Harris, however, is a prig, and a bad prig. I looked into his book, and thought he did not understand his own system.'

BOSWELL. 'He says plain things in a formal and abstract way, to be sure: but his method is good: for to have clear notions upon any subject, we must have recourse to analytick arrangement.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is what every body does, whether they will or no. But sometimes things may be made darker by definition. I see a cow, I define her, Animal quadrupes ruminans cornutum. But a goat ruminates, and a cow may have no horns. Cow is plainer.'

BOSWELL. 'I think Dr. Franklin's definition of Man a good one—" A tool-making animal."'

JOHNSON. 'But many a man never made a tool; and suppose a man without arms, he could not make a tool.'

Talking of drinking wine, he said, 'I did not leave off wine, because I could not bear it; I have drunk three bottles of port without being the worse for it. University College has witnessed this.'

BOSWELL. 'Why then, Sir, did you leave it off?'

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, because it is so much better for a man to be sure that he is never to be intoxicated, never to lose the power over himself. I shall not begin to drink wine again, till I grow old, and want it.'

BOSWELL. 'I think, Sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life.'

JOHNSON. 'It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational.'

BOSWELL. 'But if we could have pleasure always, should not we be happy? The greatest part of men would compound for pleasure.' 

JOHNSON. 'Supposing we could have pleasure always, an intellectual man would not compound for it. The greatest part of men would compound, because the greatest part of men are gross.' 

BOSWELL. 'I allow there may be greater pleasure than from wine. I have had more pleasure from your conversation, I have indeed; I assure you I have.' 

JOHNSON. 'When we talk of pleasure, we mean sensual pleasure. When a man says, he had pleasure with a woman, he does not mean conversation, but something of a very different nature. Philosophers tell you, that pleasure is contrary to happiness. Gross men prefer animal pleasure.

So there are men who have preferred living among savages. Now what a wretch must he be, who is content with such conversation as can be had among savages! You may remember an officer at Fort Augustus, who had served in America, told us of a woman whom they were obliged to bind, in order to get her back from savage life.' 

BOSWELL. 'She must have been an animal, a beast.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, she was a speaking cat.'

I mentioned to him that I had become very weary in a company where I heard not a single intellectual sentence, except that 'a man who had been settled ten years in Minorca was become a much inferiour man to what he was in London, because a man's mind grows narrow in a narrow place.' 

JOHNSON. 'A man's mind grows narrow in a narrow place, whose mind is enlarged only because he has lived in a large place: but what is got by books and thinking is preserved in a narrow place as well as in a large place. A man cannot know modes of life as well in Minorca as in London; but he may study mathematicks as well in Minorca.' 

BOSWELL. 'I don't know, Sir: if you had remained ten years in the Isle of Col, you would not have been the man that you now are.' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, if I had been there from fifteen to twenty-five; but not if from twenty-five to thirty-five.'

BOSWELL. 'I own, Sir, the spirits which I have in London make me do every thing with more readiness and vigour. I can talk twice as much in London as any where else.'

Of Goldsmith he said, 'He was not an agreeable companion, for he talked always for fame. A man who does so never can be pleasing. The man who talks to unburthen his mind is the man to delight you.

An eminent friend of ours is not so agreeable as the variety of his knowledge would otherwise make him, because he talks partly from ostentation.'

(classix comix™ is made possible in part by the continuing assistance of the Bob’s Bowery Bar Foundation for the Unpopular Arts: “I should like to remind our viewers that Bob’s Bowery Bar will once again honor our fallen heroes by offering all-you-can-eat hot dogs all day Memorial Day – yes, one dollar will get you as many wieners as you can handle, with your choice of toppings including baked beans, sauerkraut, Cheez Whiz or fried onions. All-beef kosher dogs available upon request. Sorry, no sharing!”

– 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 He Was Dead, by Hank Pete Steenbergen, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star George Gobel as “Mr. Meepers”.)

part 172

No comments:

Post a Comment