Sunday, December 17, 2017

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 197

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Palmer Method Handwriting, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Witty Highwayman, the Olney Community College Press.

Art and layout personally supervised by "rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, colored chalks by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for the penmarq qonsortium™.

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A celebrated wit being mentioned, he said, 

'One may say of him as was said of a French wit, Il n'a de l'esprit que contre Dieu. I have been several times in company with him, but never perceived any strong power of wit. He produces a general effect by various means; he has a cheerful countenance and a gay voice. Besides his trade is wit. It would be as wild in him to come into company without merriment, as for a highwayman to take the road without his pistols.'

Talking of the effects of drinking, he said, 

'Drinking may be practised with great prudence; a man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk; a sober man who happens occasionally to get drunk, readily enough goes into a new company, which a man who has been drinking should never do. Such a man will undertake any thing; he is without skill in inebriation. I used to slink home, when I had drunk too much. A man accustomed to self-examination will be conscious when he is drunk, though an habitual drunkard will not be conscious of it.

I knew a physician who for twenty years was not sober; yet in a pamphlet, which he wrote upon fevers, he appealed to Garrick and me for his vindication from a charge of drunkenness. A bookseller (naming him) who got a large fortune by trade, was so habitually and equably drunk, that his most intimate friends never perceived that he was more sober at one time than another.'

Talking of celebrated and successful irregular practisers in physick; he said, 'Taylor was the most ignorant man I ever knew; but sprightly. Ward the dullest. Taylor challenged me once to talk Latin with him; (laughing). I quoted some of Horace, which he took to be a part of my own speech. He said a few words well enough.' 

BEAUCLERK. 'I remember, Sir, you said that Taylor was an instance how far impudence could carry ignorance.' 

Mr. Beauclerk was very entertaining this day, and told us a number of short stories in a lively elegant manner, and with that air of the world which has I know not what impressive effect, as if there were something more than is expressed, or than perhaps we could perfectly understand. As Johnson and I accompanied Sir Joshua Reynolds in his coach, Johnson said, 

'There is in Beauclerk a predominance over his company, that one does not like. But he is a man who has lived so much in the world, that he has a short story on every occasion; he is always ready to talk, and is never exhausted.'

Johnson and I passed the evening at Miss Reynolds's, Sir Joshua's sister. I mentioned that an eminent friend of ours, talking of the common remark, that affection descends, said, that 'this was wisely contrived for the preservation of mankind; for which it was not so necessary that there should be affection from children to parents, as from parents to children; nay, there would be no harm in that view though children should at a certain age eat their parents.' 

JOHNSON. 'But, Sir, if this were known generally to be the case, parents would not have affection for children.' 

BOSWELL. 'True, Sir; for it is in expectation of a return that parents are so attentive to their children; and I know a very pretty instance of a little girl of whom her father was very fond, who once when he was in a melancholy fit, and had gone to bed, persuaded him to rise in good humour by saying, "My dear papa, please to get up, and let me help you on with your clothes, that I may learn to do it when you are an old man."'

Soon after this time a little incident occurred, which I will not suppress, because I am desirous that my work should be, as much as is consistent with the strictest truth, an antidote to the false and injurious notions of his character, which have been given by others, and therefore I infuse every drop of genuine sweetness into my biographical cup. 


'MY DEAR SIR, 'I am in great pain with an inflamed foot, and obliged to keep my bed, so am prevented from having the pleasure to dine at Mr. Ramsay's to-day, which is very hard; and my spirits are sadly sunk. Will you be so friendly as to come and sit an hour with me in the evening. 

'I am ever 

'Your most faithful, 

'And affectionate humble servant, 


'South Audley-street, Monday, April 26.' 


'Mr. Johnson laments the absence of Mr. Boswell, and will come to him.' 


He came to me in the evening, and brought Sir Joshua Reynolds. I need scarcely say, that their conversation, while they sat by my bedside, was the most pleasing opiate to pain that could have been administered.


(This week’s edition of classix comix™ was brought to you by Bob’s Bowery Bar, conveniently located at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Yes, here we are again in the midst of the ‘festive’ season, and even the most habitually sober among us may yet find ourselves responding perhaps too heartily to the siren call of that noble American tradition ‘the Christmas party’. I don’t know about you folks in our studio and at-home viewing audience, but speaking only for myself – hey, maybe I’m just getting old! – this near-nightly round of wintry bacchanalia can result in a certain liverish malaise which might well lead one to wonder if one will survive until the new year!

So why not follow my example and start your day off with Bob’s Bowery Bar’s eponymous Horace’s Holidays Breakfast Special Deluxe: three fried cage-free eggs, six rashers of thick-cut bacon, two slices of scrapple, a tall stack of johnnycakes glistening with fresh-churned butter and bathed in Vermont maple syrup, a half-pound of lightly breaded and fried pickled Jersey tomato slices, a side of slow-cooked fatback ‘n’ beans on 7-grain toast, a ‘bottomless’ cup of strong black java, and – that essential ‘hair of the dog’ – an imperial pint of our own restorative and nutritious basement-brewed house bock!”

– 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 Compromised Comedian, by Hank P. Snopes, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Red Skelton, and featuring a special holiday number with the Betty Baxter Dancers.) 

part 198

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