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sentiments, and advancing positions, for mere amusement, or the pleasure of discussion, Criticism has endeavoured to make him answerable for what, perhaps, he never seriously thought '. His diary, which has been printed, discovers still more. We have before us the very heart of the man, with all his inward consciousness. And yet neither in the open paths of life, nor in his secret recesses, has any one vice been discovered. We see him reviewing every year of his life, and severely censuring himself, for not keeping resolutions, which morbid melancholy, and other bodily infirmities, rendered impracticable. We see him for every little defect imposing on himself voluntary penance, going through the day with only one cup of tea without milk 2, and to the last, amidst paroxysms and remissions of illness, forming plans of study and resolutions to amend his life 3. Many of his scruples may be called weaknesses; but they are the weaknesses of a good, a pious, and most excellent man.

His person, it is well known, was large and unwieldy. His

''He appeared to have a pleasure in contradiction, especially when any opinion whatever was delivered with an air of confidence; so that there was hardly any topick, if not one of the great truths of Religion and Morality, that he might not have been incited to argue, either for or against.' Life, iii. 24.


2 His prayers for the dead and his minute account of the rigour with which he observed church fasts, whether he drank tea or coffee, whether with sugar or without, and whether one or two dishes of either, are the most important items to be found in this childish register of the great Johnson, supreme dictator in the chair of literature, and almost a driveller in his closet.' Cowper's Works, ed. 1836, v. 152.

'Yet he was himself under the tyranny of scruples as unreasonable as those of Hudibras or Ralpho. . . . He has gravely noted down in his

diary that he once committed the sin of drinking coffee on Good Friday.

... With what a storm of invective he would have overwhelmed any man who had blamed him for celebrating the redemption of mankind with sugarless tea and butterless buns.' Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, i. 394.

Cowper was unaware that his own state was far worse than Johnson's, whose superstition was tempered by great laxness of practice. 'The sin of drinking coffee' is in Macaulay's article but not in Johnson's diary. See ante, p. 75.


Life, iv. 134. Ante, p. 99.

In 1764 he recorded:-'I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving.' Ante, p. 31.

4 The author of the Life of Dr. Johnson, published by Kearsley, says, p. 87:-'His face was composed of large coarse features, which from a studious turn when composed looked

nerves were affected by that disorder, for which, at two years of age, he was presented to the royal touch'. His head shook, and involuntary motions made it uncertain that his legs and arms would, even at a tea-table, remain in their proper place 2. A person of Lord Chesterfield's delicacy might in his company be in a fever3. He would sometimes of his own accord do things inconsistent with the established modes of behaviour. Sitting at table with the celebrated Mrs. Cholmondeley, who exerted herself to circulate the subscription for Shakspeare, he took hold of her hand in the middle of dinner, and held it close to his eye, wondering at the delicacy and the whiteness, till with a smile she asked, Will he give it to me again when he has done with it? The exteriors of politeness did not belong to Johnson. Even that civility which proceeds, or ought to proceed, from the mind, was sometimes violated. His morbid melancholy had an effect on his temper; his passions were irritable; and the pride of science, as well as of a fierce independent spirit, inflamed him on some occasions above all bounds of moderation. Though not in the shade of academic bowers 5, he led a scholastic life; and the habit of pronouncing decisions to his friends and visitors gave him a dictatorial manner, which was much enforced by a voice naturally loud, and often overstretched. Metaphysical discussion, moral theory, systems of religion, and anecdotes of literature, were his favourite topics'. General history had little of his regard. Biography was his delight. The proper study of mankind is

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man'. Sooner than hear of the Punic war, he would be rude to the person that introduced the subject 2.

Johnson was born a logician; one of those, to whom only books of logic are said to be of use. In consequence of his skill in that art, he loved argumentation. No man thought more profoundly, nor with such acute discernment. A fallacy could not stand before him: it was sure to be refuted by strength of reasoning, and a precision both in idea and expression almost unequalled. When he chose by apt illustration to place the argument of his adversary in a ludicrous light, one was almost inclined to think ridicule the test of truth3. He was surprized to be told, but it is certainly true, that, with great powers of mind, wit and humour were his shining talents'. That he often argued for the sake of a triumph over his adversary, cannot be dissembled 5. Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, has been heard to tell of a friend of his, who thanked him for introducing him to Dr. Johnson, as he had been convinced, in the course of a long dispute, that an opinion which he had embraced as a settled truth, was no better than a vulgar error. This being reported

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therefore I esteem biography, as giving us what comes near to ourselves, what we can turn to use. Life, v. 79. 'The biographical part of literature,' he said, 'is what I love most.' Ib. i. 425.


Pope, Essay on Man, ii. 2.
Ante, p. 202.

3 Truth, 'tis suppos'd, may bear all Lights and one of those principal Lights or natural Mediums by which Things are to be view'd, in order to a thorow Recognition, is Ridicule it-self, or that Manner of Proof by which we discern whatever is liable to just Raillery in any subject. .... Without Wit and Humour Reason can hardly have its proof, or be distinguish'd.' Shaftesbury's Characteristics, ed. 1714, i. 61, 73.

For Warburton's argument that 'reason is the test of ridicule and

not ridicule the test of truth,' see The Divine Legation, ed. 1765, i. Dedication, p. 15.

'It is commonly said, and more particularly by Lord Shaftesbury, that ridicule is the best test of truth, for that it will not stick where it is not just. I deny it. A truth learned in a certain light, and attacked in certain words, by men of wit and humour, may, and often doth, become ridiculous, at least so far that the truth is only remembered and repeated for the sake of the ridicule.' Chesterfield's Letters, iii. 260.

'Akenside adopted Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the discovery of truth.' Johnson's Works, viii. 470.

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to Johnson, 'Nay,' said he, 'do not let him be thankful, for he was right, and I was wrong.' Like his uncle Andrew, in the ring at Smithfield, Johnson, in a circle of disputants, was determined neither to be thrown nor conquered1. Notwithstanding all his piety, self-government, or the command of his passions in conversation, does not seem to have been among his attainments. Whenever he thought the contention was for superiority, he has been known to break out with violence, and even ferocity. When the fray was over, he generally softened into repentance, and, by conciliating measures, took care that no animosity should be left rankling in the breast of his antagonist. Of this defect he seems to have been conscious. In a letter to Mrs. Thrale 3, he says, 'Poor Baretti! do not quarrel with him; to neglect him a little will be sufficient. He means only to be frank and manly, and independent, and, perhaps, as you say, a little wise. To be frank, he thinks, is to be cynical; and to be independent, is to be rude. Forgive him, dearest lady, the rather, because of his misbehaviour I am afraid he learned part of me. I hope to set him hereafter a better example.' For his own intolerant and overbearing spirit he apologized by observing, that it had done some good; obscenity and impiety were repressed in his company*.

It was late in life before he had the habit of mixing, otherwise than occasionally, with polite company 5. At Mr. Thrale's he

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2 'Goldsmith sat silently brooding over Johnson's reprimand to him after dinner. Johnson perceived this, and said aside to some of us, "I'll make Goldsmith forgive me;" and then called to him in a loud voice, "Dr. Goldsmith,—something passed to-day where you and I dined; I ask your pardon." Goldsmith answered placidly, "It must be much from you, Sir, that I take ill." And so at once the difference was over.' Life, ii. 256. See post, in Miss Reynolds's Recollections, and in Sir Joshua Reynolds's Character of Johnson.

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Before his arrival in town he was but little accustomed to free conversation with his superiors.' Hawkins, p. 164. Boswell, speaking of the best families at Lichfield, says: In these families he passed much time in his early years. In most of them he was in the company of ladies... so that the notion which has been industriously circulated and believed that he never was in good company till late in life . . . is wholly without foundation.' Life, i. 82. See post, in Percy's Anecdotes.


saw a constant succession of well-accomplished visitors. In that society he began to wear off the rugged points of his own character. He saw the advantages of mutual civility, and endeavoured to profit by the models before him '. He aimed at what has been called by Swift the lesser morals, and by Cicero minores virtutes. His endeavour, though new and late, gave pleasure to all his acquaintance. Men were glad to see that he was willing to be communicative on equal terms and reciprocal complacence. The time was then expected when he was to cease being what George Garrick, brother to the celebrated actor, called him the first time he heard him converse, 'A TREMENDOUS COMPANION 3. He certainly wished to be polite, and even thought himself so; but his civility still retained something uncouth and harsh. His manners took a milder tone, but the endeavour was too palpably seen. He laboured even in trifles. He was a giant gaining a purchase to lift a feather.

It is observed by the younger Pliny, that in the confines of virtue and great qualities there are generally vices of an opposite nature. In Dr. Johnson not one ingredient can take the name of vice. From his attainments in literature grew the pride

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Life, i. 495; iii. 325; ante, p. 318. 2 Those inferiour duties of life, which the French call les petites morales, or the smaller morals, are with us distinguished by the name of good manners or breeding.' Swift, Tatler, No. 20.

'Great talents and great virtues (if you should have them) will procure you the respect and the admiration of mankind; but it is the lesser talents, the leniores virtutes, which must procure you their love and affection.' Chesterfield's Letters, ii. 304.

'To kinder skies, where gentler

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died two days after his brother's funeral. His first question on his entering the theatre after a temporary absence was invariably, "Has my brother wanted me?" Old Charles Bannister, with a sort of tender pleasantry, when he heard of his death said, "His brother wanted him." Garrick Corres., vol. i. Preface, p. 62.

Sir, I look upon myself as a very polite man;" and he was right in a proper manly sense of the word.' Life, v. 363. See also ib. iii. 337, and ante, p. 168.

5 'It appears to me that I labour when I say a good thing.' Ib. v. 76.

6 Purchase used in this sense is not in Johnson's Dictionary.


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