Sunday, August 20, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 182


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Professor of Boswellogical and Johnsonian Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: A Murder at Vauxhall, the Olney Community College Press.

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Johnson once observed to me, 'Tom Tyers described me the best: "Sir (said he), you are like a ghost: you never speak till you are spoken to."' 

The gentleman whom he thus familiarly mentioned was Mr. Thomas Tyers, son of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the founder of that excellent place of publick amusement, Vauxhall Gardens, which must ever be an estate to its proprietor, as it is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show,— gay exhibition,— musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear;— for all which only a shilling is paid; and, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale.


Mr. Thomas Tyers was bred to the law; but having a handsome fortune, vivacity of temper, and eccentricity of mind, he could not confine himself to the regularity of practice. He therefore ran about the world with a pleasant carelessness, amusing everybody by his desultory conversation. He abounded in anecdote, but was not sufficiently attentive to accuracy. I therefore cannot venture to avail myself much of a biographical sketch of Johnson which he published, being one among the various persons ambitious of appending their names to that of my illustrious friend.

That sketch is, however, an entertaining little collection of fragments. Those which he published of Pope and Addison are of higher merit; but his fame must chiefly rest upon his Political Conferences, in which he introduces several eminent persons delivering their sentiments in the way of dialogue, and discovers a considerable share of learning, various knowledge, and discernment of character. This much may I be allowed to say of a man who was exceedingly obliging to me, and who lived with Dr. Johnson in as easy a manner as almost any of his very numerous acquaintance.


Mr. Edwards had said to me aside, that Dr. Johnson should have been of a profession. I repeated the remark to Johnson that I might have his own thoughts on the subject. 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, it would have been better that I had been of a profession. I ought to have been a lawyer.' 

BOSWELL. 'I do not think, Sir, it would have been better, for we should not have had the English Dictionary.' 

JOHNSON. 'But you would have had Reports.' 


BOSWELL. 'Ay; but there would not have been another, who could have written the Dictionary. There have been many very good Judges. Suppose you had been Lord Chancellor; you would have delivered opinions with more extent of mind, and in a more ornamented manner, than perhaps any Chancellor ever did, or ever will do. But, I believe, causes have been as judiciously decided as you could have done.' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. Property has been as well settled.' 


Johnson, however, had a noble ambition floating in his mind, and had, undoubtedly, often speculated on the possibility of his supereminent powers being rewarded in this great and liberal country by the highest honours of the state. 

Sir William Scott informs me, that upon the death of the late Lord Lichfield, who was Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he said to Johnson, 'What a pity it is, Sir, that you did not follow the profession of the law. You might have been Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, and attained to the dignity of the peerage; and now that the title of Lichfield, your native city, is extinct, you might have had it.' 


Johnson, upon this, seemed much agitated; and, in an angry tone, exclaimed, 'Why will you vex me by suggesting this, when it is too late?'

But he did not repine at the prosperity of others. The late Dr. Thomas Leland told Mr. Courtenay, that when Mr. Edmund Burke shewed Johnson his fine house and lands near Beaconsfield, Johnson coolly said, 'Non equidem invideo; miror magis [I grudge you not – rather I marvel. – Editor].'


Yet no man had a higher notion of the dignity of literature than Johnson, or was more determined in maintaining the respect which he justly considered as due to it. Of this, besides the general tenor of his conduct in society, some characteristical instances may be mentioned.

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that once when he dined in a numerous company of booksellers, where the room being small, the head of the table, at which he sat, was almost close to the fire, he persevered in suffering a great deal of inconvenience from the heat, rather than quit his place, and let one of them sit above him.


Goldsmith, in his diverting simplicity, complained one day, in a mixed company, of Lord Camden. 'I met him (said he) at Lord Clare's house in the country, and he took no more notice of me than if I had been an ordinary man.' 

The company having laughed heartily, Johnson stood forth in defence of his friend. 

'Nay, Gentleman, (said he,) Dr. Goldsmith is in the right. A nobleman ought to have made up to such a man as Goldsmith; and I think it is much against Lord Camden that he neglected him.'


Nor could he patiently endure to hear that such respect as he thought due only to higher intellectual qualities, should be bestowed on men of slighter, though perhaps more amusing talents. 

I told him, that one morning, when I went to breakfast with Garrick, who was very vain of his intimacy with Lord Camden, he accosted me thus:—

–'Pray now, did you— did you meet a little lawyer turning the corner, eh?'

– 'No, Sir, (said I.) Pray what do you mean by the question?'


—'Why, (replied Garrick, with an affected indifference, yet as if standing on tip-toe,) Lord Camden has this moment left me. We have had a long walk together.' 

JOHNSON. 'Well, Sir, Garrick talked very properly. Lord Camden was a little lawyer to be associating so familiarly with a player.' 

Sir Joshua Reynolds observed, with great truth, that Johnson considered Garrick to be as it were his property. He would allow no man either to blame or to praise Garrick in his presence, without contradicting him.


Having fallen into a very serious frame of mind, in which mutual expressions of kindness passed between us, such as would be thought too vain in me to repeat, I talked with regret of the sad inevitable certainty that one of us must survive the other. 

JOHNSON. 'Yes , Sir, that is an affecting consideration. I remember Swift, in one of his letters to Pope, says, "I intend to come over, that we may meet once more; and when we must part, it is what happens to all human beings."' 

BOSWELL. 'The hope that we shall see our departed friends again must support the mind.' 

JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir.' 


BOSWELL. 'There is a strange unwillingness to part with life, independent of serious fears as to futurity. A reverend friend of ours (naming him) tells me, that he feels an uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his house, his study, his books.'  

JOHNSON. 'This is foolish in ——. A man need not be uneasy on these grounds; for, as he will retain his consciousness, he may say with the philosopher, Omnia mea mecum porto.’ {All that is mine I carry with me. – Editor} 


BOSWELL. 'True, Sir: we may carry our books in our heads; but still there is something painful in the thought of leaving for ever what has given us pleasure. I remember, many years ago, when my imagination was warm, and I happened to be in a melancholy mood, it distressed me to think of going into a state of being in which Shakspeare's poetry did not exist. A lady whom I then much admired, a very amiable woman, humoured my fancy, and relieved me by saying, "The first thing you will meet in the other world, will be an elegant copy of Shakspeare's works presented to you."' 


Dr. Johnson smiled benignantly at this, and did not appear to disapprove of the notion. 

We went to St. Clement's church again in the afternoon, and then returned and drank tea and coffee in Mrs. Williams's room; Mrs. Desmoulins doing the honours of the tea-table. I observed that he would not even look at a proof-sheet of his Life of Waller on Good-Friday.

Mr. Allen , the printer, brought a book on agriculture, which was printed, and was soon to be published.


It was a very strange performance, the authour having mixed in it his own thoughts upon various topicks, along with his remarks on ploughing, sowing, and other farming operations. He seemed to be an absurd profane fellow, and had introduced in his book many sneers at religion, with equal ignorance and conceit. 

Dr. Johnson permitted me to read some passages aloud. One was, that he resolved to work on Sunday, and did work, but he owned he felt some weak compunction; and he had this very curious reflection:— 'I was born in the wilds of Christianity, and the briars and thorns still hang about me.' 


Dr. Johnson could not help laughing at this ridiculous image, yet was very angry at the fellow's impiety. 

'However, (said he,) the Reviewers will make him hang himself.' 

He, however, observed, 'that formerly there might have been a dispensation obtained for working on Sunday in the time of harvest.' 

Indeed in ritual observances, were all the ministers of religion what they should be, and what many of them are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the Church.   



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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 181


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Professor of 18th Century Spelling and Orthographical Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Another Night, Another Mêlée at the Mitre, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork direction by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, organic sustainable plant-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a penmarq studios™/sternwall enterprises™ co-production.

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for previous chapter, click here






April 17, being Good Friday, I waited on Johnson, as usual. I observed at breakfast that although it was a part of his abstemious discipline on this most solemn fast, to take no milk in his tea, yet when Mrs. Desmoulins inadvertently poured it in, he did not reject it. 

I talked of the strange indecision of mind, and imbecility in the common occurrences of life, which we may observe in some people. 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I am in the habit of getting others to do things for me.' 


BOSWELL. 'What, Sir! have you that weakness?' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I always think afterwards I should have done better for myself.' 

I told him that at a gentleman's house where there was thought to be such extravagance or bad management, that he was living much beyond his income, his lady had objected to the cutting of a pickled mango, and that I had taken an opportunity to ask the price of it, and found it was only two shillings; so here was a very poor saving. 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, that is the blundering oeconomy of a narrow understanding. It is stopping one hole in a sieve.'


I expressed some inclination to publish an account of my Travels upon the continent of Europe, for which I had a variety of materials collected. 

JOHNSON. 'I do not say, Sir, you may not publish your travels; but I give you my opinion, that you would lessen yourself by it. What can you tell of countries so well known as those upon the continent of Europe, which you have visited?' 

BOSWELL. 'But I can give an entertaining narrative, with many incidents, anecdotes, jeux d'esprit, and remarks, so as to make very pleasant reading.' 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, most modern travellers in Europe who have published their travels, have been laughed at: I would not have you added to the number. The world is now not contented to be merely entertained by a traveller's narrative; they want to learn something. Now some of my friends asked me, why I did not give some account of my travels in France. The reason is plain; intelligent readers had seen more of France than I had. You might have liked my travels in France, and THE CLUB might have liked them; but, upon the whole, there would have been more ridicule than good produced by them.' 


BOSWELL. 'I cannot agree with you, Sir. People would like to read what you say of any thing. Suppose a face has been painted by fifty painters before; still we love to see it done by Sir Joshua.' 

JOHNSON. 'True, Sir, but Sir Joshua cannot paint a face when he has not time to look on it.' 

BOSWELL. 'Sir, a sketch of any sort by him is valuable. And, Sir, to talk to you in your own style (raising my voice, and shaking my head,) you should have given us your travels in France. I am sure I am right, and there's an end on't.'


I said to him that it was certainly true, as my friend Dempster had observed in his letter to me upon the subject, that a great part of what was in his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland had been in his mind before he left London. 

JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir, the topicks were; and books of travels will be good in proportion to what a man has previously in his mind; his knowing what to observe; his power of contrasting one mode of life with another. As the Spanish proverb says, "He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him." So it is in travelling; a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.' 


BOSWELL. 'The proverb, I suppose, Sir, means, he must carry a large stock with him to trade with.' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir.'

It was a delightful day: as we walked to St. Clement's church, I again remarked that Fleet-street was the most cheerful scene in the world. 

There was a very numerous congregation to-day at St. Clement's church, which Dr. Johnson said he observed with pleasure.


And now I am to give a pretty full account of one of the most curious incidents in Johnson's life, of which he himself has made the following minute on this day: 'In my return from church, I was accosted by Edwards, an old fellow-collegian, who had not seen me since 1729. He knew me, and asked if I remembered one Edwards; I did not at first recollect the name, but gradually as we walked along, recovered it, and told him a conversation that had passed at an alehouse between us. My purpose is to continue our acquaintance.'


It was in Butcher-row that this meeting happened. Mr. Edwards, who was a decent-looking elderly man in grey clothes, and a wig of many curls, accosted Johnson with familiar confidence, knowing who he was, while Johnson returned his salutation with a courteous formality, as to a stranger. But as soon as Edwards had brought to his recollection their having been at Pembroke-College together nine-and-forty years ago, he seemed much pleased, asked where he lived, and said he should be glad to see him in Bolt-court. 


EDWARDS. 'Ah, Sir! we are old men now.' 

JOHNSON, (who never liked to think of being old:) 'Don't let us discourage one another.' 

EDWARDS. 'Why, Doctor, you look stout and hearty, I am happy to see you so; for the newspapers told us you were very ill.' 

JOHNSON, 'Ay, Sir, they are always telling lies of us old fellows.'


Wishing to be present at more of so singular a conversation as that between two fellow-collegians, who had lived forty years in London without ever having chanced to meet, I whispered to Mr. Edwards that Dr. Johnson was going home, and that he had better accompany him now. So Edwards walked along with us, I eagerly assisting to keep up the conversation. 

Mr. Edwards informed Dr. Johnson that he had practised long as a solicitor in Chancery, but that he now lived in the country upon a little farm, about sixty acres, just by Stevenage in Hertfordshire, and that he came to London (to Barnard's Inn, No. 6), generally twice a week. Johnson appearing to me in a reverie, Mr. Edwards addressed himself to me, and expatiated on the pleasure of living in the country. 


BOSWELL. 'I have no notion of this, Sir. What you have to entertain you, is, I think, exhausted in half an hour.' 

EDWARDS. 'What? don't you love to have hope realized? I see my grass, and my corn, and my trees growing. Now, for instance, I am curious to see if this frost has not nipped my fruit-trees.' 

JOHNSON, (who we did not imagine was attending:) 'You find, Sir, you have fears as well as hopes.'

— So well did he see the whole, when another saw but the half of a subject. 


When we got to Dr. Johnson's house, and were seated in his library, the dialogue went on admirably. 

EDWARDS. 'Sir, I remember you would not let us say prodigious at College. For even then, Sir, (turning to me,) he was delicate in language, and we all feared him.' 

JOHNSON, (to Edwards:) 'From your having practised the law long, Sir, I presume you must be rich.' 

EDWARDS. 'No, Sir; I got a good deal of money; but I had a number of poor relations to whom I gave a great part of it.' 


JOHNSON. 'Sir, you have been rich in the most valuable sense of the word.' 

EDWARDS. 'But I shall not die rich.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, sure , Sir, it is better to live rich than to die rich.' 

EDWARDS. 'I wish I had continued at College.' 

JOHNSON. 'Why do you wish that, Sir?' 

EDWARDS. 'Because I think I should have had a much easier life than mine has been. I should have been a parson, and had a good living, like Bloxam and several others, and lived comfortably.' 


JOHNSON. 'Sir, the life of a parson, of a conscientious clergyman, is not easy. I have always considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he is able to maintain. I would rather have Chancery suits upon my hands than the cure of souls. No, Sir, I do not envy a clergyman's life as an easy life, nor do I envy the clergyman who makes it an easy life.' Here taking himself up all of a sudden, he exclaimed, 'O! Mr. Edwards! I'll convince you that I recollect you. Do you remember our drinking together at an alehouse near Pembroke gate. At that time, you told me of the Eton boy, who, when verses on our Saviour's turning water into wine were prescribed as an exercise, brought up a single line, which was highly admired,—


"Vidit et erubuit lympha pudica Deum," {The modest water saw its God and blushed. – Editor} 

and I told you of another fine line in Camden's Remains, an eulogy upon one of our Kings, who was succeeded by his son, a prince of equal merit:— 

"Mira cano, Sol occubuit, nox nulla secuta est." {"Wonders I sing; the sun has set, no night has ensued." – Editor}'

EDWARDS. 'You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.' 


Mr. Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Courtenay, Mr. Malone, and, indeed, all the eminent men to whom I have mentioned this, have thought it an exquisite trait of character. The truth is, that philosophy, like religion, is too generally supposed to be hard and severe, at least so grave as to exclude all gaiety.

EDWARDS. 'I have been twice married, Doctor. You, I suppose, have never known what it was to have a wife.' 

JOHNSON. 'Sir, I have known what it was to have a wife, and (in a solemn tender faultering tone) I have known what it was to lose a wife.— It had almost broke my heart.'


EDWARDS. 'How do you live, Sir? For my part, I must have my regular meals, and a glass of good wine. I find I require it.' 

JOHNSON. 'I now drink no wine, Sir. Early in life I drank wine: for many years I drank none. I then for some years drank a great deal.' 

EDWARDS. 'Some hogsheads, I warrant you.' 


JOHNSON. 'I then had a severe illness, and left it off, and I have never begun it again. I never felt any difference upon myself from eating one thing rather than another, nor from one kind of weather rather than another. There are people. I believe, who feel a difference; but I am not one of them. And as to regular meals, I have fasted from the Sunday's dinner to the Tuesday's dinner, without any inconvenience. I believe it is best to eat just as one is hungry: but a man who is in business, or a man who has a family, must have stated meals. I am a straggler. I may leave this town and go to Grand Cairo, without being missed here or observed there.' 


EDWARDS. 'Don't you eat supper, Sir?' 

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir.' 

EDWARDS. 'For my part, now, I consider supper as a turnpike through which one must pass, in order to get to bed.'

JOHNSON. 'You are a lawyer, Mr. Edwards. Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have them to converse with. They have what he wants.' 

EDWARDS. 'I am grown old: I am sixty-five.' 


JOHNSON. 'I shall be sixty-eight next birth-day. Come, Sir, drink water, and put in for a hundred.'

Mr. Edwards mentioned a gentleman who had left his whole fortune to Pembroke College. 

JOHNSON. 'Whether to leave one's whole fortune to a College be right, must depend upon circumstances. I would leave the interest of the fortune I bequeathed to a College to my relations or my friends, for their lives. It is the same thing to a College, which is a permanent society, whether it gets the money now or twenty years hence; and I would wish to make my relations or friends feel the benefit of it.'


This interview confirmed my opinion of Johnson's most humane and benevolent heart. His cordial and placid behaviour to an old fellow-collegian, a man so different from himself; and his telling him that he would go down to his farm and visit him, showed a kindness of disposition very rare at an advanced age. 

He observed, 'how wonderful it was that they had both been in London forty years, without having ever once met, and both walkers in the street too!' 


Mr. Edwards, when going away, again recurred to his consciousness of senility, and looking full in Johnson's face, said to him, 'You'll find in Dr. Young,

"O my coevals! remnants of yourselves!"' 

Johnson did not relish this at all; but shook his head with impatience. Edwards walked off, seemingly highly pleased with the honour of having been thus noticed by Dr. Johnson. When he was gone, I said to Johnson, I thought him but a weak man. 

JOHNSON. 'Why, yes, Sir. Here is a man who has passed through life without experience: yet I would rather have him with me than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is always willing to say what he has to say.' 

Yet Dr. Johnson had himself by no means that willingness which he praised so much, and I think so justly; for who has not felt the painful effect of the dreary void, when there is a total silence in a company, for any length of time; or, which is as bad, or perhaps worse, when the conversation is with difficulty kept up by a perpetual effort?



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part 182


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 180


Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Comic Book, Manga, and Graphic Novel Studies; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Odious Wench, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, organic fair-trade water-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas); a penmarqtransgalaqtiq™ production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here






Talking of Miss ——, a literary lady, he said, 'I was obliged to speak to Miss Reynolds, to let her know that I desired she would not flatter me so much.' 

Somebody now observed, 'She flatters Garrick.' 

JOHNSON. 'She is in the right to flatter Garrick. She is in the right for two reasons; first, because she has the world with her, who have been praising Garrick these thirty years; and secondly, because she is rewarded for it by Garrick. Why should she flatter me? I can do nothing for her. Let her carry her praise to a better market. (Then turning to Mrs. Knowles). You, Madam, have been flattering me all the evening; I wish you would give Boswell a little now. If you knew his merit as well as I do, you would say a great deal; he is the best travelling companion in the world.'


Somebody mentioned the Reverend Mr. Mason's prosecution of Mr. Murray, the bookseller, for having inserted in a collection of Gray's Poems, only fifty lines, of which Mr. Mason had still the exclusive property, under the statute of Queen Anne; and that Mr. Mason had persevered, notwithstanding his being requested to name his own terms of compensation. Johnson signified his displeasure at Mr. Mason's conduct very strongly; but added, by way of shewing that he was not surprized at it, 'Mason's a Whig.' 


MRS. KNOWLES, (not hearing distinctly:) 'What! a Prig, Sir?' 

JOHNSON. 'Worse, Madam; a Whig! But he is both.'

I expressed a horrour at the thought of death. 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'Nay, thou should'st not have a horrour for what is the gate of life.' 

JOHNSON, (standing upon the hearth rolling about, with a serious, solemn, and somewhat gloomy air:) 'No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension.' 


MRS. KNOWLES. 'The Scriptures tell us, "The righteous shall have hope in his death."' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Madam; that is, he shall not have despair. But, consider, his hope of salvation must be founded on the terms on which it is promised that the mediation of our SAVIOUR shall be applied to us,— namely, obedience; and where obedience has failed, then, as suppletory to it, repentance. But what man can say that his obedience has been such, as he would approve of in another, or even in himself upon close examination, or that his repentance has not been such as to require being repented of? No man can be sure that his obedience and repentance will obtain salvation.' 


MRS. KNOWLES. 'But divine intimation of acceptance may be made to the soul.' 

JOHNSON. 'Madam, it may; but I should not think the better of a man who should tell me on his death-bed he was sure of salvation. A man cannot be sure himself that he has divine intimation of acceptance; much less can he make others sure that he has it.' 

BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, we must be contented to acknowledge that death is a terrible thing.' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes , Sir. I have made no approaches to a state which can look on it as not terrible.' 


MRS. KNOWLES, (seeming to enjoy a pleasing serenity in the persuasion of benignant divine light :) 'Does not St. Paul say, "I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished my course; henceforth is laid up for me a crown of life?"' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Madam; but here was a man inspired, a man who had been converted by supernatural interposition.' 

BOSWELL. 'In prospect death is dreadful; but in fact we find that people die easy.' 


JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, most people have not thought much of the matter, so cannot say much, and it is supposed they die easy. Few believe it certain they are then to die; and those who do, set themselves to behave with resolution, as a man does who is going to be hanged. He is not the less unwilling to be hanged.' 

MISS SEWARD. 'There is one mode of the fear of death, which is certainly absurd; and that is the dread of annihilation, which is only a pleasing sleep without a dream.' 


JOHNSON. 'It is neither pleasing, nor sleep; it is nothing. Now mere existence is so much better than nothing, that one would rather exist even in pain, than not exist. The lady confounds annihilation, which is nothing, with the apprehension of it, which is dreadful. It is in the apprehension of it that the horrour of annihilation consists.'

Of John Wesley, he said, 'He can talk well on any subject.' 

BOSWELL. 'Pray, Sir, what has he made of his story of a ghost?' 


JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, he believes it; but not on sufficient authority. He did not take time enough to examine the girl. It was at Newcastle, where the ghost was said to have appeared to a young woman several times, mentioning something about the right to an old house, advising application to be made to an attorney, which was done; and, at the same time, saying the attorney would do nothing, which proved to be the fact. "This (says John) is a proof that a ghost knows our thoughts." Now (laughing) it is not necessary to know our thoughts, to tell that an attorney will sometimes do nothing. Charles Wesley, who is a more stationary man, does not believe the story. I am sorry that John did not take more pains to inquire into the evidence for it.' 


MISS SEWARD, (with an incredulous smile:) 'What, Sir! about a ghost?' 

JOHNSON, (with solemn vehemence:) 'Yes, Madam: this is a question which, after five thousand years, is yet undecided; a question, whether in theology or philosophy, one of the most important that can come before the human understanding.'

Mrs. Knowles mentioned, as a proselyte to Quakerism, Miss ——, a young lady well known to Dr. Johnson, for whom he had shewn much affection; while she ever had, and still retained, a great respect for him. Mrs. Knowles at the same time took an opportunity of letting him know 'that the amiable young creature was sorry at finding that he was offended at her leaving the Church of England and embracing a simpler faith;' and, in the gentlest and most persuasive manner, solicited his kind indulgence for what was sincerely a matter of conscience. 


JOHNSON, (frowning very angrily,) 'Madam, she is an odious wench. She could not have any proper conviction that it was her duty to change her religion, which is the most important of all subjects, and should be studied with all care, and with all the helps we can get. She knew no more of the Church which she left, and that which she embraced, than she did of the difference between the Copernican and Ptolemaick systems.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'She had the New Testament before her.' 


JOHNSON. 'Madam, she could not understand the New Testament, the most difficult book in the world, for which the study of a life is required.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'It is clear as to essentials.' 

JOHNSON. 'But not as to controversial points. The heathens were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up; but we ought not, without very strong conviction indeed, to desert the religion in which we have been educated. That is the religion given you, the religion in which it may be said Providence has placed you.


If you live conscientiously in that religion, you may be safe. But errour is dangerous indeed, if you err when you choose a religion for yourself.' 

MRS. KNOWLES. 'Must we then go by implicit faith?' 

JOHNSON. 'Why, Madam, the greatest part of our knowledge is implicit faith; and as to religion, have we heard all that a disciple of Confucius, all that a Mahometan, can say for himself?' 


He then rose again into passion, and attacked the young proselyte in the severest terms of reproach, so that both the ladies seemed to be much shocked. 

We remained together till it was pretty late. Notwithstanding occasional explosions of violence, we were all delighted upon the whole with Johnson. I compared him at this time to a warm West-Indian climate, where you have a bright sun, quick vegetation, luxuriant foliage, luscious fruits; but where the same heat sometimes produces thunder, lightning, earthquakes, in a terrible degree.


(classix comix™ is underwritten in part by the Bob’s Bowery Institute for Destitute Artists: “Have you ever awakened with a killing hangover on a sweltering August mid-afternoon in your un-airconditioned fourth-floor walk-up, realizing dimly that you haven’t eaten in forty-eight hours and yet still horrified at the very thought of eating? Join the club, and do what I so often do: make your way somehow to Bob’s Bowery Bar and order the eponymous ‘Horace Hangover Special 2-B’: an imperial pint of Bob’s justly renowned basement-brewed house bock with a large raw organic egg plopped into it, and on the side a jumbo house-baked sourdough pretzel. Drink down the pint-and-egg as quickly as you can, and then nibble on the pretzel while your friendly bartender draws you another pint of that delicious dark nectar, with or without an egg this time, depending on the state of your stomach. Drink this second pint in a leisurely fashion, whilst continuing to nibble upon the soft pretzel. When you have finished both bock and pretzel, go back home and collapse on your cot. I assure you that when you awaken sometime that evening you will be ready to conquer the world!”

– 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 Kleptomaniacal Girl, by Hedy P. St. Vincent, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Patty McCormick as “Gwendolyn”.)



part 181