Sunday, July 30, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 179

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Remedial Reading Comprehension Skills for Native English Speakers; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Apologetic Highwayman, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, gouaches, computer-generated coloration by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a penmarq production™ in association with the  sternwall conglomerate™.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

Dr. Mayo having asked Johnson's opinion of Soame Jenyns's View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion;

JOHNSON. 'I think it a pretty book; not very theological indeed; and there seems to be an affectation of ease and carelessness, as if it were not suitable to his character to be very serious about the matter.' 

BOSWELL. 'He may have intended this to introduce his book the better among genteel people, who might be unwilling to read too grave a treatise. There is a general levity in the age. We have physicians now with bag-wigs; may we not have airy divines, at least somewhat less solemn in their appearance than they used to be?' 

JOHNSON. 'Jenyns might mean as you say.' 

BOSWELL. 'You should like his book, Mrs. Knowles, as it maintains, as you friends do, that courage is not a Christian virtue.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'Yes, indeed, I like him there; but I cannot agree with him, that friendship is not a Christian virtue.' 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, strictly speaking, he is right. All friendship is preferring the interest of a friend, to the neglect, or, perhaps, against the interest of others; so that an old Greek said, "He that has friends has no friend."

Now Christianity recommends universal benevolence, to consider all men as our brethren, which is contrary to the virtue of friendship, as described by the ancient philosophers. Surely, Madam, your sect must approve of this; for, you call all men friends.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'We are commanded to do good to all men, "but especially to them who are of the household of Faith."' 

JOHNSON. 'Well, Madam. The household of Faith is wide enough.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'But, Doctor, our Saviour had twelve Apostles, yet there was one whom he loved. John was called "the disciple whom JESUS loved."' 

JOHNSON (with eyes sparkling benignantly). 'Very well, indeed, Madam . You have said very well.' 

BOSWELL. 'A fine application. Pray, Sir, had you ever thought of it?' 

JOHNSON. 'I had not, Sir.'

From this pleasing subject, he, I know not how or why, made a sudden transition to one upon which he was a violent aggressor; for he said, 'I am willing to love all mankind, except an American:' and his inflammable corruption bursting into horrid fire, he 'breathed out threatenings and slaughter;' calling them, 'Rascals— Robbers— Pirates;' and exclaiming, he'd 'burn and destroy them.' 

Miss Seward, looking to him with mild but steady astonishment, said, 'Sir, this is an instance that we are always most violent against those whom we have injured.' 

— He was irritated still more by this delicate and keen reproach; and roared out another tremendous volley, which one might fancy could be heard across the Atlantick. During this tempest I sat in great uneasiness, lamenting his heat of temper; till, by degrees, I diverted his attention to other topicks.

DR. MAYO (to Dr. Johnson). 'Pray, Sir, have you read Edwards, of New England, on Grace?' 

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir.' 

BOSWELL. 'It puzzled me so much as to the freedom of the human will, by stating, with wonderful acute ingenuity, our being actuated by a series of motives which we cannot resist, that the only relief I had was to forget it.' 

MAYO. 'But he makes the proper distinction between moral and physical necessity.' 

BOSWELL. 'Alas, Sir, they come both to the same thing. You may be bound as hard by chains when covered by leather, as when the iron appears. The argument for the moral necessity of human actions is always, I observe, fortified by supposing universal prescience to be one of the attributes of the Deity.' 

JOHNSON. 'You are surer that you are free, than you are of prescience; you are surer that you can lift up your finger or not as you please, than you are of any conclusion from a deduction of reasoning. But let us consider a little the objection from prescience. It is certain I am either to go home to-night or not; that does not prevent my freedom.' 

BOSWELL. 'That it is certain you are either to go home or not, does not prevent your freedom; because the liberty of choice between the two is compatible with that certainty. But if one of these events be certain now, you have no future power of volition. If it be certain you are to go home to-night, you must go home.'

JOHNSON. 'If I am well acquainted with a man, I can judge with great probability how he will act in any case, without his being restrained by my judging. GOD may have this probability increased to certainty.' 

BOSWELL. 'When it is increased to certainty, freedom ceases, because that cannot be certainly foreknown, which is not certain at the time; but if it be certain at the time, it is a contradiction in terms to maintain that there can be afterwards any contingency dependent upon the exercise of will or any thing else.' 

JOHNSON. 'All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.'

— I did not push the subject any farther. I was glad to find him so mild in discussing a question of the most abstract nature, involved with theological tenets, which he generally would not suffer to be in any degree opposed.

He as usual defended luxury; 

'You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury, than by giving it: for by spending it in luxury, you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle. I own, indeed, there may be more virtue in giving it immediately in charity, than in spending it in luxury; though there may be a pride in that too.' 

Miss Seward asked, if this was not Mandeville's doctrine of 'private vices publick benefits.' 

JOHNSON. 'The fallacy of that book is, that Mandeville defines neither vices nor benefits. He reckons among vices everything that gives pleasure. He takes the narrowest system of morality, monastick morality, which holds pleasure itself to be a vice, such as eating salt with our fish, because it makes it eat better; and he reckons wealth as a publick benefit, which is by no means always true.

Pleasure of itself is not a vice. Having a garden, which we all know to be perfectly innocent, is a great pleasure. At the same time, in this state of being there are many pleasures vices, which however are so immediately agreeable that we can hardly abstain from them. The happiness of Heaven will be, that pleasure and virtue will be perfectly consistent. Mandeville puts the case of a man who gets drunk in an alehouse; and says it is a publick benefit, because so much money is got by it to the publick. But it must be considered, that all the good gained by this, through the gradation of alehouse-keeper, brewer, maltster, and farmer, is overbalanced by the evil caused to the man and his family by his getting drunk.

This is the way to try what is vicious, by ascertaining whether more evil than good is produced by it upon the whole, which is the case in all vice. It may happen that good is produced by vice; but not as vice; for instance, a robber may take money from its owner, and give it to one who will make a better use of it. Here is good produced; but not by the robbery as robbery, but as translation of property. I read Mandeville forty, or, I believe, fifty years ago. He did not puzzle me; he opened my views into real life very much. No, it is clear that the happiness of society depends on virtue.

In Sparta, theft was allowed by general consent: theft, therefore, was there not a crime, but then there was no security; and what a life must they have had, when there was no security. Without truth there must be a dissolution of society. As it is, there is so little truth, that we are almost afraid to trust our ears; but how should we be, if falsehood were multiplied ten times? Society is held together by communication and information; and I remember this remark of Sir Thomas Brown's, "Do the devils lie? No; for then Hell could not subsist."'

(classix comix™ is brought to you by Bob’s Bowery, conveniently located at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “I should like to remind our viewers that every Monday night at 8 pm my favorite caravanserai Bob’s Bowery Bar features ‘Sing Along With Tony’ – famed pianist Tony Winston plays all the songs you want to hear with special guest musicians and vocalists every week from Broadway, cinema, TV and radio. Stump Tony with a song he doesn’t know and win a free drink of your choice (sorry, ‘well’ drinks only)!”

– Horace P. Sternwall, 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 Neurotic Detective, by Hilda Pomphrey St. Claude, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with returning special guest star Montgomery Clift as “Detective Blackmore”.)

part 180

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 178

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of 18th Century British Cisgender Platonic Romance Literature; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Banged up in Bedlam, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, stencils, sustainable water-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a penmarq studios™/horace p. sternwall™/ co-production in association with bobsbowerybar™ enterprises, int’l.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

The subject of cookery having been very naturally introduced at a table where Johnson, who boasted of the niceness of his palate, owned that 'he always found a good dinner,' he said, 

'I could write a better book of cookery than has ever yet been written; it should be a book upon philosophical principles. Pharmacy is now made much more simple. Cookery may be made so too. A prescription which is now compounded of five ingredients, had formerly fifty in it. So in cookery, if the nature of the ingredients be well known, much fewer will do.

Then as you cannot make bad meat good, I would tell what is the best butcher's meat, the best beef, the best pieces; how to choose young fowls; the proper seasons of different vegetables; and then how to roast and boil, and compound.' 

DILLY. 'Mrs. Glasse's Cookery, which is the best, was written by Dr. Hill. Half the trade know this.' 

JOHNSON. 'Well, Sir. This shews how much better the subject of cookery may be treated by a philosopher. I doubt if the book be written by Dr. Hill; for, in Mrs. Glasse's Cookery, which I have looked into, salt-petre and sal-prunella are spoken of as different substances, whereas sal-prunella is only salt-petre burnt on charcoal; and Hill could not be ignorant of this.

However, as the greatest part of such a book is made by transcription, this mistake may have been carelessly adopted. But you shall see what a Book of Cookery I shall make! I shall agree with Mr. Dilly for the copy-right.' 

Miss SEWARD. 'That would be Hercules with the distaff indeed.' 

JOHNSON. 'No, Madam. Women can spin very well; but they cannot make a good book of Cookery.'

JOHNSON. 'O! Mr. Dilly— you must know that an English Benedictine Monk at Paris has translated The Duke of Berwick's Memoirs, from the original French, and has sent them to me to sell. I offered them to Strahan, who sent them back with this answer:—"That the first book he had published was the Duke of Berwick's Life, by which he had lost: and he hated the name."— Now I honestly tell you, that Strahan has refused them; but I also honestly tell you, that he did it upon no principle, for he never looked into them.' 

DILLY. 'Are they well translated, Sir?' 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, very well— in a style very current and very clear. I have written to the Benedictine to give me an answer upon two points— What evidence is there that the letters are authentick? (for if they are not authentick they are nothing;)— And how long will it be before the original French is published? For if the French edition is not to appear for a considerable time, the translation will be almost as valuable as an original book. They will make two volumes in octavo; and I have undertaken to correct every sheet as it comes from the press.' 

Mr. Dilly desired to see them, and said he would send for them. He asked Dr. Johnson if he would write a Preface to them. 

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir. The Benedictines were very kind to me, and I'll do what I undertook to do; but I will not mingle my name with them. I am to gain nothing by them. I'll turn them loose upon the world, and let them take their chance.' 

Mrs. Knowles affected to complain that men had much more liberty allowed them than women. 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, women have all the liberty they should wish to have. We have all the labour and the danger, and the women all the advantage. We go to sea, we build houses, we do everything, in short, to pay our court to the women.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'The Doctor reasons very wittily, but not convincingly. Now, take the instance of building; the mason's wife, if she is ever seen in liquor, is ruined; the mason may get himself drunk as often as he pleases, with little loss of character; nay, may let his wife and children starve.' 

JOHNSON. 'Madam, you must consider, if the mason does get himself drunk, and let his wife and children starve, the parish will oblige him to find security for their maintenance. We have different modes of restraining evil. Stocks for the men, a ducking-stool for women, and a pound for beasts. If we require more perfection from women than from ourselves, it is doing them honour. And women have not the same temptations that we have: they may always live in virtuous company; men must mix in the world indiscriminately. If a woman has no inclination to do what is wrong being secured from it is no restraint to her. I am at liberty to walk into the Thames; but if I were to try it, my friends would restrain me in Bedlam, and I should be obliged to them.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'Still, Doctor, I cannot help thinking it a hardship that more indulgence is allowed to men than to women. It gives a superiority to men, to which I do not see how they are entitled.' 

JOHNSON. 'It is plain, Madam, one or other must have the superiority. As Shakspeare says, "If two men ride on a horse, one must ride behind."' 

DILLY. 'I suppose, Sir, Mrs. Knowles would have them to ride in panniers, one on each side.' 

JOHNSON. 'Then, Sir, the horse would throw them both.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'Well, I hope that in another world the sexes will be equal.' 

BOSWELL. 'That is being too ambitious, Madam. We might as well desire to be equal with the angels. We shall all, I hope, be happy in a future state, but we must not expect to be all happy in the same degree. It is enough if we be happy according to our several capacities. A worthy carman will get to heaven as well as Sir Isaac Newton. Yet, though equally good, they will not have the same degrees of happiness.' 

JOHNSON. 'Probably not.'

Upon this subject I had once before sounded him, by mentioning the late Reverend Mr. Brown, of Utrecht's image; that a great and small glass, though equally full, did not hold an equal quantity; which he threw out to refute David Hume's saying, that a little miss, going to dance at a ball, in a fine new dress, was as happy as a great oratour, after having made an eloquent and applauded speech. 

After some thought, Johnson said, 'I come over to the parson.' 

As an instance of coincidence of thinking, Mr. Dilly told me, that Dr. King, a late dissenting minister in London, said to him, upon the happiness in a future state of good men of different capacities, 'A pail does not hold so much as a tub; but, if it be equally full, it has no reason to complain. Every Saint in heaven will have as much happiness as he can hold.' 

Mr. Dilly thought this a clear, though a familiar illustration of the phrase, 'One star differeth from another in brightness.'

(classix comix™ is underwritten in part by a generous endowment from the Bob’s Bowery Bar Fund for Underemployed Artists and Writers: “Have you ever woken up in mid-afternoon with not the faintest idea of what you did the night before, and with a killing headache vying for your attention with a gnawing hunger? Well, I certainly have, so why not do what I do and make your way somehow to Bob’s Bowery Bar – conveniently located (ha ha) right downstairs from my own fourth-floor walk-up at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery – and take your pick from Bob’s all-day breakfast menu? My current ‘fave’? Bob’s Porkroll Special: three half-inch slices of Taylor porkroll {ask for ‘crispy edges’} on a thick toasted buttered house-baked sourdough roll, topped with a fried free-range egg and a generous dollop of melted Limburger cheese –

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part 179

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 177

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Remedial Basic English Reading Comprehension Skills; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: A Murder in the Mews, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction and layout by "rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, cgi, claymation by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a “penmarq cinematic universe” production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

On Monday, April 13, I dined with Johnson at Mr. Langton's, where were Dr. Porteus, then Bishop of Chester, now of London, and Dr. Stinton. He was at first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he said nothing but 'Pretty baby,' to one of the children. Langton said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Johnson's conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus:— 

'CHAP. LXXII. Concerning snakes.

'There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.'

We talked of the styles of different painters, and how certainly a connoisseur could distinguish them; I asked, if there was as clear a difference of styles in language as in painting, or even as in hand-writing, so that the composition of every individual may be distinguished? 

JOHNSON. 'Yes. Those who have a style of eminent excellence, such as Dryden and Milton, can always be distinguished.' 

I had no doubt of this, but what I wanted to know was, whether there was really a peculiar style to every man whatever, as there is certainly a peculiar handwriting, a peculiar countenance, not widely different in many, yet always enough to be distinctive. 

The Bishop thought not; and said, he supposed that many pieces in Dodsley's collection of poems, though all very pretty, had nothing appropriated in their style, and in that particular could not be at all distinguished. 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I think every man whatever has a peculiar style, which may be discovered by nice examination and comparison with others: but a man must write a great deal to make his style obviously discernible. As logicians say, this appropriation of style is infinite in potestate, limited in actu.'

Mr. Topham Beauclerk came in the evening, and he and Dr. Johnson and I staid to supper. It was mentioned that Dr. Dodd had once wished to be a member of THE LITERARY CLUB. 

JOHNSON. 'I should be sorry if any of our Club were hanged. I will not say but some of them deserve it.' 

BEAUCLERK; (supposing this to be aimed at persons for whom he had at that time a wonderful fancy, which, however, did not last long,) was irritated, and eagerly said, 'You, Sir, have a friend, (naming him) who deserves to be hanged; for he speaks behind their backs against those with whom he lives on the best terms, and attacks them in the newspapers. He certainly ought to be kicked.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, we all do this in some degree. To be sure it may be done so much, that a man may deserve to be kicked.' 

BEAUCLERK. 'He is very malignant.' 

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; he is not malignant. He is mischievous, if you will. He would do no man an essential injury; he may, indeed, love to make sport of people by vexing their vanity. I, however, once knew an old gentleman who was absolutely malignant. He really wished evil to others, and rejoiced at it.' 

BOSWELL. 'The gentleman, Mr. Beauclerk, against whom you are so violent, is, I know, a man of good principles.' 

BEAUCLERK. 'Then he does not wear them out in practice.'

Dr. Johnson, who, as I have observed before, delighted in discrimination of character, and having a masterly knowledge of human nature, was willing to take men as they are, imperfect and with a mixture of good and bad qualities, I suppose thought he had said enough in defence of his friend, of whose merits, notwithstanding his exceptional points, he had a just value; and added no more on the subject.

On Tuesday, April 14, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, with General Paoli and Mr. Langton. General Oglethorpe declaimed against luxury. 

JOHNSON. 'Depend upon it, Sir, every state of society is as luxurious as it can be. Men always take the best they can get.' 

OGLETHORPE. 'But the best depends much upon ourselves; and if we can be as well satisfied with plain things, we are in the wrong to accustom our palates to what is high-seasoned and expensive. What says Addison in his Cato, speaking of the Numidian?

"Coarse are his meals, the fortune of the chace, 
Amid the running stream he slakes his thirst, 
Toils all the day, and at the approach of night, 
On the first friendly bank he throws him down, 

Or rests his head upon a rock till morn; 
And if the following day he chance to find 
A new repast, or an untasted spring, 
Blesses his stars, and thinks it's luxury."

Let us have that kind of luxury, Sir, if you will.' 

JOHNSON. 'But hold, Sir; to be merely satisfied is not enough. It is in refinement and elegance that the civilized man differs from the savage. A great part of our industry, and all our ingenuity is exercised in procuring pleasure; and, Sir, a hungry man has not the same pleasure in eating a plain dinner, that a hungry man has in eating a luxurious dinner.'

Talking of different governments,— 

JOHNSON. 'The more contracted that power is, the more easily it is destroyed. A country governed by a despot is an inverted cone. Government there cannot be so firm, as when it rests upon a broad basis gradually contracted, as the government of Great Britain, which is founded on the parliament, then is in the privy council, then in the King.' 

BOSWELL. 'Power, when contracted into the person of a despot, may be easily destroyed, as the prince may be cut off. So Caligula wished that the people of Rome had but one neck, that he might cut them off at a blow.' 

On Wednesday, April 15, I dined with Dr. Johnson at Mr. Dilly's, and was in high spirits, for I had been a good part of the morning with Mr. Orme, the able and eloquent historian of Hindostan, who expressed a great admiration of Johnson. 'I do not care (said he,) on what subject Johnson talks; but I love better to hear him talk than any body. He either gives you new thoughts, or a new colouring. It is a shame to the nation that he has not been more liberally rewarded. Had I been George the Third, and thought as he did about America, I would have given Johnson three hundred a year for his Taxation no Tyranny alone.' I repeated this, and Johnson was much pleased with such praise from such a man as Orme.

At Mr. Dilly's to-day were Mrs. Knowles, the ingenious Quaker lady, Miss Seward, the poetess of Lichfield, the Reverend Dr. Mayo, and the Rev. Mr. Beresford, Tutor to the Duke of Bedford. 

Before dinner Dr. Johnson seized upon Mr. Charles Sheridan's Account of the late Revolution in Sweden, and seemed to read it ravenously, as if he devoured it, which was to all appearance his method of studying. 

'He knows how to read better than any one (said Mrs. Knowles;) he gets at the substance of a book directly; he tears out the heart of it.' 

He kept it wrapt up in the tablecloth in his lap during the time of dinner, from an avidity to have one entertainment in readiness when he should have finished another; resembling (if I may use so coarse a simile) a dog who holds a bone in his paws in reserve, while he eats something else which has been thrown to him.

"(classix comix™ is brought to you by Bob’s Bowery Bar, conveniently located at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “I should like to remind our viewers who, like myself, tend to keep somewhat irregular hours, ha ha, that my favorite watering hole Bob’s Bowery Bar serves its hearty breakfast menu from 7 am to 3 am every day! False modesty shall not prevent me from recommending the eponymous ‘Sternwall Eye-Opener Special’: corned beef hash, fried groat cakes, three eggs ‘any style’, and your choice of 7-grain or sourdough toast, with a ‘bottomless’ cup of Chase & Sanborn coffee, a dram of Gilbey’s gin and an imperial pint of Bob’s world-renowned basement-brewed bock – all for the low, low price of $4.95!”

– Horace P. Sternwall, 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 Hysterical Grandmother, by Hugh P. Studebaker, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Ethel Barrymore as “Mrs. Shackleton”.)

part 178