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Happening to meet Sir Adam Ferguffon, I prefented him to Dr. Johnson. Sir Adam expreffed fome apprehenfion that the Pantheon would encourage Atat. 63. luxury. "Sir, (faid Johnson,) I am a great friend to publick amusements; for they keep people from vice. You now (addreffing himself to me,) would have been with a wench, had you not been here. O! I forgot you were married."
Sir Adam fuggested, that luxury corrupts a people, and deftroys the fpirit of liberty. JOHNSON. "Sir, that is all vifionary. I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. What Frenchman is prevented from paffing his life as he pleases?" SIR ADAM. "But, Sir, in the British conftitution it is furely of importance to keep up a spirit in the people, so as to preferve a balance against the crown." JOHNSON. "Sir, I perceive you are a vile Whig-Why all this childish jealousy of the power of the crown? The crown has not power enough. When I fay that all governments are alike, I confider that in no government power can be abufed long. Mankind will not bear it. If a fovereign oppreffes his people to a great degree, they will rife and cut off his head. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us fafe under every form of government. Had not the people of France thought themselves honoured as fharing in the brilliant actions of the reign of Lewis XIV. they would not have endured him; and we may fay the fame of the King of Pruffia's people." Sir Adam introduced the ancient Greeks and Romans. JOHNSON. " "Sir, the mafs of both of them were barbarians. The mafs of every people must be barbarous where there is no printing, and confequently knowledge is not generally diffused. Knowledge is diffused among our people by the newfpapers." Sir Adam mentioned the orators, poets, and artists of Greece. JOHNSON. "Sir, I am talking of the mass of the people. We fee even what the boasted Athenians were. The little effect which Demofthenes's orations had upon them, fhews that they were barbarians."
Sir Adam was unlucky in his topicks; for he suggested a doubt of the propriety of Bishops having feats in the Houfe of Lords. JOHNSON. "How fo, Sir? Who is more proper for having the dignity of a peer, than a Bishop, provided a Bishop be what he ought to be; and if improper Bishops be made, that is not the fault of the Bishops, but of those who make them.”
On Sunday, April 5, after attending divine fervice at St. Paul's church, I found him alone. Of a schoolmafter of his acquaintance, a native of Scot
1772. Ly Atat. 63.
land, he said, “He has a great deal of good about him; but he is also very defective in some respects. His inner part is good, but his outer part is mighty aukward. You in Scotland do not attain that nice critical skill in languages, which we get in our schools in England. I would not put a boy to him, whom I intended for a man of learning. But for the fons of citizens, who are to learn a little, get good morals, and then go to trade, he may do very well."
I mentioned a caufe in which I had appeared as counsel at the bar of the General Affembly of the Church of Scotland, where a Probationer, (as one licensed to preach, but not yet ordained, is called,) was oppofed in his application to be inducted, because it was alledged that he had been guilty of fornication five years before. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, if he has repented, it is not a fufficient objection. A man who is good enough to go to heaven, is good enough to be a clergyman." This was a humane and liberal fentiment. But the character of a clergyman is more facred than that of an ordinary Christian. As he is to inftruct with authority, he fhould be regarded with reverence, as one upon whom divine truth has had the effect to fet him above fuch tranfgreffions, as men lefs exalted by fpiritual habits, and yet upon the whole not to be excluded from heaven, have been betrayed into by the predominance of paffion. That clergymen may be confidered as finners in general, as all men are, cannot be denied; but this reflection will not counteract their good precepts fo much, as the abfolute knowledge of their having been guilty of certain fpecifick immoral acts. I told him, that by the rules of the Church of Scotland, in their "Book of Difcipline," if a scandal, as it is called, is not profecuted for five years, it cannot afterwards be proceeded upon, "unless it be of a heinous nature, or again become flagrant;" and that hence a question arofe, whether fornication was a fin of a heinous nature; and that I had maintained, that it did not deferve that epithet, in as much as it was not one of thofe fins which argue very great depravity of heart: in fhort, was not, in the general acceptation of mankind, a heinous fin. JOHNSON. "No, Sir, it is not a heinous fin. A heinous fin is that for which a man is punished with death or banishment." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, after I had argued that it was not a heinous fin, an old clergyman rofe up, and repeating the text of fcripture denouncing judgement against whoremongers, afked, whether, confidering this, there could be any doubt of fornication being a heinous fin. JOHNSON. " Why, Sir, obferve the word whoremonger. Every fin, if perfifted in, will become heinous. Whoremonger is a dealer in whores, as ironmonger is a dealer in iron. But as you don't call a man an ironmonger for
buying and felling a pen-knife; fo you don't call a man a whoremonger for
I spoke of the inequality of the livings of the clergy in England, and the
He faid, he went more frequently to church when there were prayers only, than when there was alfo a fermon, as the people required more an example for the one than the other; it being much easier for them to hear a fermon, than to fix their minds on prayer.
On Monday, April 6, I dined with him at Sir Alexander Macdonald's, where was a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots Royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency, and precifion fo uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honourable Thomas Erfkine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has fince rifen into fuch brilliant reputation at the bar in Westminster-hall.
Fielding being mentioned, Johnson exclaimed, "he was a blockhead ;" and upon my expreffing my aftonifhment at fo ftrange an affertion, he faid, "What I mean by his being a blockhead is, that he was a barren rascal." BOSWELL. "Will you not allow, Sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?" JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, it is of very low life. Richardfon used to say, that had he not known who Fielding was, he should have believed he was an oftler. Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardfon's, than in all Tom Jones.' I, indeed, never read 'Jofeph Andrews." ERSKINE. Surely, Sir, Richardfon is very tedious.". JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, if you were to read Richardfon for the story, your impatience would be fo much fretted, that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and confider the ftory as only giving occafion to the fentiment."-I have already given my opinion of Fielding; but I cannot refrain from repeating here my wonder at Johnson's exceffive and unaccountable depreciation of one of the best writers that England has produced. "Tom Jones" has stood the teft of publick opinion with fuch fuccefs, as to have established its great merit, both for the story, the fentiments, and the manners, and also the varieties of diction, fo as to leave no doubt of its having an animated truth of execution throughout.
A book of travels, lately published under the title of Coriat Junior, and written by Mr. Paterfon, the auctioneer, was mentioned. Johnfon faid, this book was an imitation of Sterne, and not of Coriat, whofe name Paterfon had chofen as a whimfical one. "Tom Coriat, (faid he,) was a humourist about the court of James the Firft. He had a mixture of learning, of wit, and of buffoonery. He firft travelled through Europe, and published his travels. He afterwards travelled on foot through Asia, and had made many remarks; but he died at Mandoa, and his remarks were left."
We talked of gaming, and animadverted on it with feverity. JOHNSON. "Nay, gentlemen, let us not aggravate the matter. It is not roguery to play with a man who is ignorant of the game, while you are master of it, and so win his money; for he thinks he can play better than you, as you think you can play better than he; and the fuperiour skill carries it." ERSKINE. "He is a fool, but you are not a rogue." JOHNSON. "That's much about the truth, Sir. It must be considered, that a man who only does what every one of the fociety to which he belongs would do, is not a dif honeft man. In the republick of Sparta it was agreed, that stealing was not dishonourable, if not difcovered. I do not commend a fociety where there is an agreement that what would not otherwise be fair, fhall be fair; but I maintain, that an individual of any fociety, who practises what is allowed, is not a difhoneft man." BOSWELL." So then, Sir, you do not think ill of a man who wins perhaps forty thousand pounds in a winter?" JOHNSON. "Sir, I do not call a gamefter a dishonest man; but I call him an unfocial man, an unprofitable man. Gaming is a mode of transferring property without producing any intermediate good. Trade gives employment to numbers, and fo produces intermediate good."
Mr. Erfkine told us, that when he was in the island of Minorca, he not only read prayers, but preached two fermons to the regiment. He feemed to object to the paffage in fcripture where we are told that the angel of the Lord fmote in one night forty thousand Affyrians. "Sir, (faid Johnson,) you fhould recollect that there was a fupernatural interpofition; they were destroyed by peftilence. You are not to fuppofe that the angel of the Lord went about and ftabbed each of them with a dagger, or knocked them on the head, man by man."
After Mr. Erfkine was gone, a difcuffion took place, whether the prefent Earl of Buchan, when Lord Cardross, did right to refufe to go Secretary of the Embaffy to Spain, when Sir James Gray, a man of inferiour rank, went Ambaffadour. Dr. Johnson faid, that perhaps in point of
intereft he did wrong; but in point of dignity he did well. Sir Alexander
insisted that he was wrong, and faid that Mr. Pitt intended it as an advan- Ætat. 63. tageous thing for him. Why, Sir, (faid Johnfon,) Mr. Pitt might think it an advantageous thing for him to make him a vintner, and get him all the Portugal trade; but he would have demeaned himself strangely had he accepted of fuch a fituation. Sir, had he gone Secretary while his inferiour was Ambaffadour, he would have been a traitor to his rank and family."
I talked of the little attachment which fubfifted between near relations in London. "Sir, (faid Johnson,) in a country fo commercial as ours, where every man can do for himself, there is not so much occafion for that attachment. No man is thought the worfe of here, whofe brother was hanged. In uncommercial countries, many of the branches of a family muft depend on the stock; fo, in order to make the head of the family take care of them, they are reprefented as connected with his reputation, that, felf-love being interested, he may exert himself to promote their intereft. You have first large circles, or clans; as commerce increases, the connection is confined to families. By degrees, that too goes off, as having become unneceffary, and there being few opportunities of intercourfe. One brother is a merchant in the city, and another is an officer in the guards. How little intercourse can these two have!"
I argued warmly for the old feudal fyftem. Sir Alexander oppofed it, and talked of the pleasure of seeing all men free and independent. JOHNSON. "I agree with Mr. Bofwell that there must be a high fatisfaction in being a feudal Lord; but we are to confider, that we ought not to wish to have a number of men unhappy for the fatisfaction of one."—I maintained that numbers, namely, the vaffals or followers, were not unhappy, for that there was a reciprocal fatisfaction between the Lord and them: he being kind in his authority over them; they being refpectful and faithful to him.
On Thursday, April 9, I called on him to beg he would go and dine with me at the Mitre tavern. He had refolved not to dine at all this day, I know not for what reafon; and I was fo unwilling to be deprived of his company, that I was content to fubmit to fuffer a want, which was at first somewhat painful, but he foon made me forget it; and a man is always pleased with himfelf when he finds his intellectual inclinations predominate.
He obferved, that to reafon too philofophically on the nature of prayer, was very unprofitable.
Talking of ghofts, he faid, he knew one friend, who was an honeft man and a fenfible man, who told him he had seen a ghoft, old Mr. Edward Bbb 2