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might be for the sake of telling Sir Joshua that he had turned them. Such speeches may appear offensive to many; but those who know he was too blind to discern the perfections of an art which applies itself immediately to our eyesight, must acknowledge he was not in the
He delighted no more in music than painting; he was almost as deaf as he was blind: travelling with Dr. Johnson was for these reasons tiresome enough. Mr. Thrale loved prospects, and was mortified that his friend could not enjoy the sight of those different dispositions of wood and water, hill and valley, that travelling through England and France affords a man. But when he wished to point them out to his companion: "Never heed
such nonsense," would be the reply: "a blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another let us, if we do talk, talk about something; men and women are my subjects of inquiry; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind."
53. Porridge Island.
I was saying to a friend one day, that I did not like goose; one smells it so while it is roasting, said I : — "But you, Madam," replies the Doctor, "have been at all times a fortunate woman, having always had your hunger so forestalled by indulgence, that you never experienced the delight of smelling your dinner beforehand." Which pleasure, answered I pertly, is to be enjoyed in perfection by such as have the happiness to pass through Porridge Island of a morning. "Come, come," says he gravely, "let's have no sneering at what is serious to so many hundreds of your fellow-creatures, dear lady, turn another way, that they may not be tempted by the luxuries of Porridge Island to wish for gratifications they
Porridge Island is a mean street in London filled with cook-shops for the convenience of the poorer inhabitants; the real name of it I know not, but suspect that which it is generally known by to have been originally a term of derision. Piozzi. It is not a street, but a paved alley, near the church of St. Martin's in the Fields. Malone.
are not able to obtain: you are certainly not better than all of them; give God thanks that you are happier."
54. Foppish Lamentations.
I received on another occasion as just a rebuke from Mr. Johnson, for an offence of the same nature, and hope I took care never to provoke a third; for, after a very long summer particularly hot and dry, I was wishing naturally, but thoughtlessly, for some rain to lay the dust, as we drove along the Surrey roads. "I cannot bear," replied he, with much asperity and an altered look, "when I know how many poor families will perish next winter for want of that bread which the present drought will deny them, to hear ladies sighing for rain, only that their complexions may not suffer from the heat, or their clothes be incommoded by the dust; - for shame! leave off such foppish lamentations, and study to relieve those whose distresses are real."
55. Johnson's Charity.
With advising others to be charitable, however, Dr. Johnson did not content himself. He gave away all he had, and all he ever had gotten, except the two thousand pounds he left behind; and the very small portion of his income which he spent on himself, with all our calculation, we never could make more than seventy, or, at most, fourscore pounds a year, and he pretended to allow himself a hundred. He had numberless dependents out of doors as well as in, "who," as he expressed it, "did not like to see him latterly unless he brought 'em money.' For those people he used frequently to raise contributions on his richer friends; "and this," says he, "is one of the thousand reasons which ought to restrain a man from drony solitude and useless retirement."
"Solitude," added he one day, "is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to virtue pleasures of some sort are necessary to the intellectual as to the corporeal health; and those who resist gaiety will be likely,
for the most part, to fall a sacrifice to appetite; for the solicitations of sense are always at hand, and a dram to a vacant and solitary person is a speedy and seducing relief.
continued he, "that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad the mind stagnates for want of employment, grows morbid, and is extinguished like a candle in foul air."
It was on this principle that Johnson encouraged parents to carry their daughters early and much into company "for what harm can be done before so many witnesses? Solitude is the surest nurse of all prurient passions; and a girl in the hurry of preparation, or tumult of gaiety, has neither inclination nor leisure to let tender expressions soften or sink into her heart. The ball, the show, are not the dangerous places: no, 't is the private friend, the kind consoler, the companion of the easy vacant hour, whose compliance with her opinions can flatter her vanity, and whose conversation can just soothe, without ever stretching her mind, that is the lover to be feared: he who buzzes in her ear at court, or at the opera, must be contented to buzz in vain."
These notions Dr. Johnson carried so very far, that I have heard him say, "If you would shut up any man with any woman, so as to make them derive their whole pleasure from each other, they would inevitably fall in love, as it is called, with each other; but at six months' end, if you would throw them both into public life where they might change partners at pleasure, each would soon forget that fondness which mutual dependence, and the paucity of general amusement alone, had caused, and each would separately feel delighted by their release."
57. Useless Singularity.— Cards.-Dress.-Dancing. Mr. Johnson was indeed unjustly supposed to be a lover of singularity. Few people had a more settled reverence for the world than he, or was less captivated by new modes of behaviour introduced, or innovations on the long-received customs of common life. He hated the
way of leaving a company without taking notice to the lady of the house that he was going; and did not much like any of the contrivances by which ease has been lately introduced into society instead of ceremony, which had more of his approbation.
Cards, dress, and dancing all found their advocates in Dr. Johnson, who inculcated, upon principle, the cultivation of those arts, which many a moralist thinks himself bound to reject, and many a Christian holds unfit to be practised.
said he one day,
"No person, goes under-dressed till he thinks himself of consequence enough to forbear carrying the badge of his rank upon his back." And in answer to the arguments urged by Puritans, Quakers, &c., against showy decorations of the human figure, I once heard him exclaim, "Oh, let us not be found, when our Master calls us, ripping the lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of contention from our souls and tongues ! Let us all conform in outward customs, which are of no consequence, to the manners of those whom we live among, and despise such paltry distinctions. Alas, Sir," continued he, "a man who cannot get to heaven in a green coat, will not find his way thither the sooner in a grey one."
On an occasion of less consequence, when he turned his back on Lord Bolingbroke in the rooms at Brighthelmstone, he made this excuse:-"I am not obliged, Sir," said he to Mr. Thrale, who stood fretting, "to find reasons for respecting the rank of him who will not condescend to declare it by his dress, or some other visible mark: what are stars and other signs of superiority made for ?"
58. General Satire.-Physic.-Law.
Though no man, perhaps, made such rough replies as Dr. Johnson, yet nobody had a more just aversion to general satire. He always hated and censured Swift for his unprovoked bitterness against the professors of medicine; and used to challenge his friends, when they lamented the exorbitancy of physicians' fees, to produce
him one instance of an estate raised by physic in England. When an acquaintance, too, was one day exclaiming against the tediousness of the law and its partiality "Let us hear, Sir," said Johnson, "no general abuse; the law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public."
59. Unnecessary Scruples.
As the mind of Dr. Johnson was greatly expanded, so his first care was for general, not particular or petty morality; and those teachers had more of his blame than praise, I think, who seek to oppress life with unnecessary scruples: Scruples would," as he observed, "certainly make men miserable, and seldom make them good. Let us ever," he said, "studiously fly from those instructors against whom our Saviour denounces heavy judgments, for having bound up burdens grievous to be borne, and laid them on the shoulders of mortal men."
No one had, however, higher notions of the hard task of true Christianity than Johnson, whose daily terror lest he had not done enough originated in piety, but ended in little less than disease. Reasonable with regard to others, he had formed vain hopes of performing impossibilities himself; and finding his good works ever below his desires and intent, filled his imagination with fears that he should never obtain forgiveness for omissions of duty and criminal waste of time.
Mr. Johnson liked a frolic or a jest well enough; though he had strange serious rules about it too; and very angry was he if any body offered to be merry when he was disposed to be grave. "You have an ill-founded notion," said he," that it is clever to turn matters off with a joke, as the phrase is; whereas, nothing produces enmity so certain, as one person's showing a disposition to be merry, when another is inclined to be either serious or displeased."