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who is going to be hanged :-he is not the less unwil- 1778. ling to be hanged.” Miss SEWARD. “ There is one

Etat. mode of the fear of death, which is certainly absurd : 69. 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.” BosWELL. “ If annihilation be nothing, then existence in pain is not a comparative state, but is a positive evil, which I cannot think we should choose. I must be allowed to differ here ; and it would lessen the hope of

that preme Being, who is good as he is great, will hereafter 14 compensate for our present sufferings in this life. For if existence, such as we have it here, be comparatively a good, we have no reason to complain, though no more of it should be given to us. But if our only state of existence were in this world, then we might with some reason complain that we are so dissatisfied with our enjoyments compared with our desires.” JOHNSON. “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 enquire into the evidence for it.” Miss SEWARD, (with an incred

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1778. ulous smile :) " What, Sir! about a ghost ?” JOHN

! Etat. son, (with solemn vehemence :) “ Yes, Madam : this 69. is a question which, after five thousand years, is yet un

decided: 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 reli

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gion, have we heard all that a disciple of Confucius, 1778. all that a Mahometan, can say for himself ?” He then

Ætat. rose again into passion, and attacked the young prose- 69. lyte 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.

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 ?" JOHN

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

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* Mrs. Knowles, not satisfied with the fame of her needle-work, the “ sutile pictures" mentioned by Johnson, in which she has indeed displayed much dexterity, nay, with the fame of reasoning better than women generally do, as I have fairly shewn her to have done, communicated to me a Dialogue of considerable length, which after many years had elapsed, she wrote down as having passed between Dr. Johnson and her at this interview. As I had not the least recollection of it, and did not find the smallest trace of it in my Record taken at the time, I could not in consistency with my firm regard to authenticity, insert it in my work. It has however, been published in “The Gentleman's Magazine” for June 1791. It chiefly relates to the principles of the sect called Quakers ; and no doubt the lady appears to have greatly the advantage of Dr. Johnson in argument as well as expression. From what I have now stated, and from the internal evidence of the paper itfelf, any one who


have the curiosity to peruse it, will judge whether it was wrong in me to reject it, however willing to gratify Mrs. Knowles.


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1778. price of it, and found it was only two shillings ; so Ætat.

here was a very poor saving. Johnson. “Sir, that 69. is the blundering economy 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.
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.2 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 Josh-
ua.” Johnson. " True, Sir, but Sir Joshua cannot
paint a face when he has not time to look on it.” Bos-
WELL. “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

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? I believe, however, I shall follow my own opinion ; for the world has shewn a very flattering partiality to my writings, on many occasions

subject, that a great part of what was in his “ Journey :778. to the Western Islands of Scotland," had been in his

Ætat. mind before he left London. Johnson. “ Why yes, 69.

. 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

I the most cheerful scene in the world. " Fleet-street (said I,) is in my mind more delightful than Tempé.” JOHNSON. " Ay, Sir ; but let it be compared with Mull.”

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 acquaint

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 salutaion with a courteous for


3 Prayers and Meditations, p. 164.

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