Изображения страниц

I proceeded : “What do you think, Sir, of purgatory, as believed by the Roman Catholics ?” Johnson: “ Why, Sir, it is a very harmless doctrine. They are of opinion that the generality of mankind are neither so obstinately wicked as to deserve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of blessed spirits ; and therefore that God is graciously pleased to allow of a middle state, where they may be purified by certain degrees of suffering. You see, Sir, there is nothing unreasonable in this.” BOSWELL:

“ But then, Sir, their masses for the dead ?” JOHNSON : “Why, Sir, if it be once established that there are souls in purgatory, it is as proper to pray for them, as for our brethren of mankind who are yet in this life.” BOSWELL: “The idolatry of the Mass ?JOHNSON : “Sir, there is no idolatry in the Mass. They believe God to be there, and they adore him." BOSWELL: “ The worship of Saints ?” JOHNSON : “Sir, they do not worship saints; they invoke them : they only ask their prayers. I am talking all this time of the doctrines of the Church of Rome. I grant you that in practice, purgatory is made a lucrative imposition, and that the people do become idolatrous as they recommend themselves to the tutelary protection of particular saints. I think their giving the sacrament only in one kind is criminal, because it is contrary to the express institution of CHRIST, and I wonder how the Council of Trent admitted it.” BOSWELL : “Confession ?JOHNSON : Why, I don't know but that is a good thing. The Scripture says, “Confess your faults one to another,' and the priests confess as well as the laity. Then it must be considered that their absolution is only upon repentance, and often upon penance also. You think your sins may be forgiven without penance, upon repentance alone.”

I thus ventured to mention all the common objections against the Roman Catholic Church, that I might hear so great a man upon them. What he said is here accurately recorded. But it is not improbable that if one had taken the other side, he might have reasoned differently.

I must, however, mention, that he had a respect for the old religion,as the mild Melancthon called that of the Roman Catholic Church, even while he was exerting himself for its reformation in some particulars. Sir William Scott informs me that he heard Johnson say, “A man who is converted from Protestantism to Popery, may be sincere ; he parts with nothing : he is only superadding to what he already had. But a convert from Popery to Protestantism, gives up so much of wbat he has held as sacred as anything that he retains ; there is so much laceration of mind in such a conversion, that it can hardly be sincere and lasting.” The truth of this reflection may be confirmed by many and eminent instances, some of which will occur to most of niy


When we were alone, I introduced the subject of death, and endeavoured to maintain that the fear of it might be got over. I told him that David Hume said to me, he was no more uneasy to think he should not be after his life, than that he had not been before he began to exist. JOHNSON : “Sir, if he really thinks so, his perceptions are disturbed ; he is mad. If he does not think so, he lies. He may


he holds his finger in the flame of a candle, without feeling pain ; would you believe him ? When he dies, he at least gives up all he has." BOSWELL: Foote, Sir, told me, that when he was very ill he was not afraid to die.” JOHNSON : “It is not true, Sir. Hold a pistol to Foote’s breast, or to Hume's breast, and threaten to kill them, and you'll see how they behave.” BOSWELL: “But may we not fortify our minds for the approach of death?”—Here I am sensible I was in the wrong, to bring before his view what he ever looked upon with horror ; for although when in a celestial frame of mind in his “ Vanity of Human Wishes, he has supposed death to be “ kind Nature's signal for retreat,” from this state of being to “ a happier seat,” his thoughts upon this awful change were in general full of dismal apprehensions. His mind resembled the vast amphitheatre, the Coliseum at Rome. In the centre stood his judgment, which, like a mighty gladiator, combated those apprehensions that, like the wild beasts of the Arena, were all around in cells, ready to be let out upon him. After a conflict, he drives them back into their dens ; but not killing them, they were still assailing him. To my question, whether we might not fortify our minds for the approach of death, he answered, in a passion, “No, Sir, let it alone. It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.” He added, (with an earnest look,) knows it must be so, and submits. It will do him no good to whine.'

I attempted to continue the conversation. He was so provoked, that he said : “Give us no more of this :” and was thrown into such a state of agitation, that he expressed himself in a way that alarmed and distressed me; showed an impatience that I should leave him, and when I was going away, called to me sternly, “Don't let us meet to-morrow.”

I went home exceedingly uneasy. All the harsh observations which I had ever heard made upon his character, crowded into my mind : and I seemed to myself like the man who had put his head into the lion's mouth a great many times with perfect safety, but at last had it bit off.

Next morning I sent him a note, stating that I might have been in the wrong, but it was not intentionally ; he was therefore, I could not help thinking, too severe upon me. That notwithstanding our agreement not to meet that day, I would call on him in my way to the city, and stay five minutes by my watch. “You are,” said I “ in my mind, since last night, surrounded with cloud and storm. Let me have a glimpse of sunshine, and go about my affairs in serenity and cheerfulness.”

Upon entering his study, I was glad that he was not alone, which would have made our meeting more awkward. There were with him Mr. Steevens and Mr. Tyers, both of whom I now saw for the first

" A man


time. My note had, on his own reflection, softened him, for he received me very complacently ; so that I unexpectedly found myself at ease, and joined in the conversation.

He said, the critics had done too much honour to Sir Richard Blackmore, by writing so much against him. That in his “ Creation he had been helped by various wits,-a line by Phillips, and a line by Tickell ; so that by their aid, and that of others, the poem had been made out.

I defended Blackmore's supposed lines, which have been ridiculed as absolute nonsense:

“A painted vest Prince Vortiger had on,

Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won.”2 I maintained it to be a poetical conceit. A Pict being painted, if he is slain in battle, and a vest is made of his skin, it is a painted vest won from him, though he was naked.

Johnson spoke unfavourably of a certain pretty voluminous author, saying, “He used to write anonymous books, and then other books commending those books, in which there was something of rascality.”

I whispered him, “Well, Sir, you are now in good humour." John SON : “Yes, Sir.” I was going to leave him, and had got as far as the staircase. He stopped me, and smiling, said, “Get you gone in;" a curious mode of inviting me to stay, which I accordingly did for some time longer.

This little incidental quarrel and reconciliation, which, perhaps, I may be thought to have detailed too minutely, must be esteemed as one of many proofs which his friends had, that though he might be charged with bad humour at times, he was always a good-natured man; and I have heard Sir Joshua Reynolds, a nice and delicate observer of manners, particularly remark, that when upon any occasion Johnson

1 Johnson himself has vindicated Blackmore upon this very point. See “The Lives of the Poets," vol. iii., p. 75, 8vo., 1791.-J. BoswELL, JUN.

2 An acute correspondent of “ The European Magazine," April, 1792, has completely exposed a mistake which has been unaccountably frequent in ascribing these lines to Blackmore, notwithstanding that Sir Richard Steele, in that very popular work, “ The Spectator," mentions them as written by the author of “The British Princes," the Hon. Edward Howard. The correspondent above mentioned, shows this mistake to be so inveterate, that not only I defended the lines as Blackmore's, in the presence of Dr. Johnson, without any contradiction or doubt of their authenticity, but that the Reverend Mr. Whitaker has asserted in print, that he understands they were suppressed in the late edition or editions of Blackmore. “ After all," says this intelligent writer, “it is not unworthy of particular observation, that these lines so often quoted do not exist either in Blackmore or Howard." In “The British Princes," 8vo., 1669, now before me, p. 96, they stand thus:

“A vest as admired Vortiger had on,
Which from this Island's foes his grandsire won,
Whose artful colour pass'd the Tyrian dye,

Obliged to triumph in this legacy." It is probable, I think, that some wag, in order to make Howard still more ridiculous than he really was, formed the couplet as it now circulates.-Boswell.

had been rough to any person in company, he took the first opportunity of reconciliation, by drinking to him, or addressing his di-course to him ; but if he found his dignified indirect overtures sullenly neglected, he was quite indifferent, and considered himself as having done all that he ought to do, and the other as now in the wrong.

Being to set out for Scotland on the 10th of November, I wrote to him at Streatham, begging that he would meet me in town on the 9th : but if this should be very inconvenient to him, I would


thither, His answer was as follows:


Nov. 9, 1769. ['pon balancing the inconveniences of both parties, I find it will less incommode you to spend your night here, than me to co:ne to town. I wish to see you, and am ordered by the lady of this house to invite you hither. Whether you can come or not, I shall 110t have any occasion of writing to you again before your marriage, and therefore tell you now, that with great sincerity I wish you happiness, I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant,

“Sim. Johnson." I was detained in town till it was too late on the 9th, so want to him early in the morning of the 10:h of November. “Now," said he, “that

you are going to marry, do not expect more from lie than life will afford. You may often find yourself out of humour, and you may often think your wife not studious enough to please you ; and yet you may have reason to consider yourself as upon the whole very happily married.'

Talking of marriage in general, he observed, “Our marriare service is too refined. It is calculated only for the best kind of marriages ; whereas, we should have a form for matches of convenience, of which there are many." He agreed with me that there was no absolute necessity for having the marriage ceremony performed by a regular clergyman, for this was not commanded in scripture.

I was volatile enough to repeat to him a little epigrammatic song of mine, on matrimony, which Mr. Garrick had a few days before procured to be sit to music by the very ingenious Mr. Dibdin.

* In the blythe days of honeymoon,

With Kate's allurements smitien,
I loved her late, I loved her soon,

And calied her dearest kitien.
“ But now my kiiten's grown a cat,

Anıl cross like other wives,
Oh! by my soul, my honest Mat,

I fear she has nine lives.”

My illustrious friend said, “It is very well, Sir; but you should not swear.” Upon which I altered “Oh! by my soul,” to “ Alas, alas!'

He was so good as to accompany me to London, and see me into the post-chaise which was to carry me on my road to Scotland. And sure I am, that however inconsiderable many of the particulars recorded at this time may appear to some, they will be esteemed by the best part of my readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »