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had been educated in the Roman Catholic faith, I believe I should have questioned my right to quit the religion of my fathers; therefore, well may I hate the arrogance of a young wench, who sets herself up for a judge on theological points, and deserts the religion in whose bosom she was nurtured.” KNOWLES. “ She has not done so ; the name and the faith of Christians are not denied to the sectaries.” JOHNSON. “ If the name is not, the common sense is.” KNOWLES. “I will not dispute this point with thee, Doctor, at least at present; it would carry us too far. Suppose it granted, that, in the mind of a young girl, the weaker arguments appeared the strongest, her want of better judgment should excite thy pity, not thy resentment.” Johnson. “ Madam, it has my anger and my contempt, and always will have them.” KNOWLES. “ Consider, Doctor, she must be sincere. Consider what a noble fortune she has sacrificed.” Johnson. “ Madam, madam, I have never taught myself to consider that the association of folly can extenuate guilt.” KNOWLES. “ Ah! Doctor, we cannot rationally suppose that the Deity will not pardon a defect in judgment (supposing it should prove one) in that breast where the consideration of serving Him, according to its idea, in spirit and truth, has been a preferable inducement to that of worldly interest.” Johnson. “ Madam, I pretend not to set bounds to the mercy of the Deity ; but I hate the wench, and shall ever hate her. I hate all impudence; but the impudence of a chit's apostacy I nauseate.” KNOWLES. “ Jenny is a very gentle creature. She trembles to have offended her parent, though far removed from his
presence ; she grieves to have offended her guardian; and she is sorry to have offended Dr. Johnson, whom she loved, admired, and honoured.” Johnson. Why, then, Madam, did she not consult the man whom she pretends to have loved, admired, and honoured, upon her new-fangled scruples ? If she had looked up to
that man with any degree of the respect she professes, she would have supposed his ability to judge of fit and right, at least equal to that of a raw wench just out of her primer.” KNOWLES. “ Ah! Doctor, remember it was not from amongst the witty and the learned that Christ selected his disciples, and constituted the teachers of his precepts. Jenny thinks Dr. Johnson great and good; but she also thinks the Gospel demands and enjoins a simpler form of worship than that of the Established Church ; and that it is not in wit and eloquence to supersede the force of what appears to her a plain and regular system, which cancels all typical and mysterious ceremonies, as fruitless and even idolatrous; and asks only obedience to its injunctions, and the ingenuous homage of a devout heart.” Johnson. “ The homage of a fool's head, Madam, you should say, if you will pester me about the ridiculous wench.” KNOWLES. “ If thou choosest to suppose her ridiculous, thou canst not deny that she has been religious, sincere, disinterested. Canst thou believe that the gate of Heaven will be shut to the tender and pious mind, whose first consideration has been that of apprehended duty ?” Johnson. “ Pho, pho, Madam, who says it will ?” KNOWLES. “ Then if Heaven shuts not its gate, shall man shut his heart? If the Deity accept the homage of such as sincerely serve him under every form of worship, Dr. Johnson and this humble girl will, it is to be hoped, meet in a blessed eternity, whither human animosity must not be carried.” JOHNSON. “
Madam, I am not fond of meeting fools anywhere; they are detestable company, and while it is in my power to avoid conversing with them, I certainly shall exert that power; and so you may tell the odious wench, whom you have persuaded to think herself a saint, and of whom you will, I suppose, make a preacher; but I shall take care she does not preach to me.”- The loud and angry tone in which he thundered out these replies
to his calm and able antagonist, frightened us all, except Mrs. Knowles, who gently, not sarcastically, smiled at his injustice. Mr. Boswell whispered me, saw this mighty lion so chafed before.” (1)
66 Tour.” The general style of Boswell's Tour is somewhat too careless, and its egotism is ridiculous; but surely to the cold-hearted and fastidious reader only, will it seem ridiculous. The slipshod style is richly compensated by the palpable fidelity of the interesting anecdotes ; the egotism, by that good-humoured ingenuousness with which it is given, and by its unsuspecting confidence in the candour of the reader. The incidents, and characteristic traits of this valuable work, grapple our attention perforce. How strongly our imagination is impressed when the massive Being is presented to it, stalking, like a Greenland bear, over the barren Hebrides, roaming round the black rocks and lonely coasts, in a small boat, on rough seas, and saluting Flora Macdonald in the Isle of Sky!
The spirit of Boswell's Tour with Johnson runs clear to the last syllable. Those who are not interested in its anecdotes can have little intellectual curiosity, and no imagination. Those who are not entertained with the perpetual triumph of sarcastic wit over fair, inge
gument, must be sturdier moralists than ever Johnson himself affected to have been ; and those who do not love the biographer, as they read, whatever imperfections they may find in the massive Being whom
(1) [" Boswell's Life of Johnson is out. It contains the memorable conversation at Dilly's, but without that part of it of which I made minutes. This omission is surely unjustifiable, as I gave Mr. Boswell my memoir, and I am sure it contains nothing but what was said by Mrs. Knowles and the despot.” SEWARD, May 19. 1791..For Boswell's reasons for leaving out the lady's communication, see antè, Vol. VII. p. 144.; and for Mrs. Knowles's version of this conversation, see post, Part xxxii.] he so strongly characterises, can have no hearts. It is for the line of Bruce to be proud of the historian of Corsica: it is for the house of Auchinleck to boast of him who, with the most fervent personal attachment to an illustrious literary character, has yet been sufficiently faithful to the just claims of the public upon biographic fidelity, to represent him, not as his weak or prejudiced idolaters might wish to behold him,- not in the light in which they desire to contemplate Johnson who pronounce bis writings to be an obscure jargon of pompous pedantry, and his imputed virtues a superstitious farrago of pharisaic ostentation, but as he was : the most wonderful composition of great and absurd, of misanthropy and benevolence, of luminous intellect and prejudiced darkness, that was ever produced in the human breast.
502. Mr. and Mrs. Piozzi. I am become acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Piozzi. Her conversation is that bright wine of the intellects which has no lees. Dr. Johnson told me truth when he said, she had more colloquial wit than most of our literary women: it is indeed a fountain of perpetual flow. But he did not tell me truth when he asserted that Piozzi was an ugly dog, without particular skill in his profession. Mr. Piozzi is a handsome man, in middle life, with gentle, pleasing, and unaffected manners, and with very eminent skill in his profession. Though he has not a powerful or fine-toned voice, he sings with transcending grace and expression. I am charmed with his perfect expression on his instrument. Surely the finest sensibilities must vibrate through his frame, since they breathe so sweetly through his song! (Oct. 1787.)
503. Reading Manuscripts. When last in Lichfield, Johnson told me that a lady in London once sent him a poem which she had
written, and afterwards desired to know his opinion of
*Madam, I have not cut the leaves; I did not even peep between them.' I met her again in company, and she again asked me after the trash: I made no reply, and began talking to another person. The next time we met, she asked me if I had yet read her poem ; I answered, “ No, Madam, nor ever intend it.”” Shocked at the unfeeling rudeness he thus recorded of himself, I replied, that I was surprised any person should obtrude their writings upon his attention; adding, that if I could write as well as Milton or Gray, I should think the best fate to be desired for my compositions was exemption from his notice. I expected a sharp sarcasm in return, but he only rolled his large head in silence.
Johnson told me once, he would hang a dog that read the ‘Lycidas' of Milton twice.” “What, then,” replied I, “ must become of me, who can say it by heart; and who often repeat it to myself with a delight, which grows by what it feeds upon?” “ Die,” returned the growler,“ in a surfeit of bad taste.”
Thus it was that the wit and awless impoliteness of the stupendous creature bore down, by storm, every barrier which reason attempted to rear against his injustice!
504. Last Visit to Lichfield, Oct. 29. 1784.- I have lately been in the almost daily habit of contemplating a very melancholy spectacle. The great Johnson is here, labouring under the paroxysms of a disease which must speedily be fatal. He shrinks from the consciousness with the extremest horror. It is by his repeatedly expressed desire that I visit him often : yet I am sure he neither does, nor ever did, feel much regard for me; but he would fain escape, for a time, in any society, from the terrible idea of his approaching dissolution. I never would be awed, by his sarcasm or his frowns, into acquiescence with his general injustice to the merits of other writers,