Sunday, August 27, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 183

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of 18th Century Urban Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Seditious Delinquent, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction and layout by "rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, shellacs and glazes by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarq studios™, a wholly owned subsidiary of the sternwall™ corporation.

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On Saturday, April 14, I drank tea with him. He praised the late Mr. Buncombe, of Canterbury, as a pleasing man. 

'He used to come to me: I did not seek much after him. Indeed I never sought much after any body.' 

BOSWELL. 'Lord Orrery, I suppose.' 

JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; I never went to him but when he sent for me.'

BOSWELL. 'Richardson?' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I sought after George Psalmanazar the most. I used to go and sit with him at an alehouse in the city.'

I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his seeking after a man of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines Barrington had published his excellent Observations on the Statutes, Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and, having told him his name, courteously said, 

'I have read your book, Sir, with great pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.' 

Thus began an acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson lived.

Talking of a recent seditious delinquent, he said, 'They should set him in the pillory, that he may be punished in a way that would disgrace him.' 

I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I mentioned an instance of a gentleman who I thought was not dishonoured by it. 

JOHNSON. 'Ay, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not willing to ask a man to their tables who has stood in the pillory.'

The Gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's came in. Johnson attacked the Americans with intemperate vehemence of abuse. I said something in their favour; and added, that I was always sorry when he talked on that subject. This, it seems, exasperated him; though he said nothing at the time. The cloud was charged with sulphureous vapour, which was afterwards to burst in thunder.

— We talked of a gentleman who was running out his fortune in London; and I said, 'We must get him out of it. All his friends must quarrel with him, and that will soon drive him away.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir; we'll send you to him. If your company does not drive a man out of his house, nothing will.' 

This was a horrible shock, for which there was no visible cause. I afterwards asked him why he had said so harsh a thing. 

JOHNSON. 'Because, Sir, you made me angry about the Americans.' 

BOSWELL. 'But why did you not take your revenge directly?' 

JOHNSON. (smiling ) 'Because, Sir, I had nothing ready. A man cannot strike till he has his weapons.' 

This was a candid and pleasant confession.

He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteelly fitted up; and said, 'Mrs. Thrale sneered when I talked of my having asked you and your lady to live at my house. I was obliged to tell her, that you would be in as respectable a situation in my house as in hers. Sir, the insolence of wealth will creep out.' 

BOSWELL. 'She has a little both of the insolence of wealth, and the conceit of parts.' 

JOHNSON. 'The insolence of wealth is a wretched thing; but the conceit of parts has some foundation. To be sure it should not be. But who is without it?' 

BOSWELL. 'Yourself, Sir.' 

JOHNSON. 'Why I play no tricks: I lay no traps.' 

BOSWELL. 'No, Sir. You are six feet high, and you only do not stoop.'

We talked of the numbers of people that sometimes have composed the household of great families. I mentioned that there were a hundred in the family of the present Earl of Eglintoune's father. Dr. Johnson seeming to doubt it, I began to enumerate. 

'Let us see: my Lord and my Lady two.' 

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, if you are to count by twos, you may be long enough.' 

BOSWELL. 'Well, but now I add two sons and seven daughters, and a servant for each, that will make twenty; so we have the fifth part already.' 

JOHNSON. 'Very true. You get at twenty pretty readily; but you will not so easily get further on. We grow to five feet pretty readily; but it is not so easy to grow to seven.'

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– 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 wacky program: Dr. Blanche Attends a Conference, by Huey Pete Stoneman, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest stars Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo Marx.)

part 184

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