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.

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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 –

and don’t forget Bob’s own Hellfire Hot Sauce! Wash it down with a ‘bottomless cup’ of strong black hickory coffee and, needless to say, a restorative imperial pint of Bob’s own basement brewed bock, and you’ll be, as my young friends say, ‘good to go’!” – 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: a very special two-hour ‘sweeps week’ presentation – Dr. Blanche Has a Nervous Breakdown, by Helga P. Steinway, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Charles Laughton as “Dr. Blanton”.)

part 179

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