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1772. the angel of the Lord smote in one night forty thou. Ætat. 63.
sand Assyrians.* “Sir, (said Johnson,) you should recollect that there was a supernatural interposition ; they were destroyed by pestilence. You are not to suppose that the angel of the LORD went about and stabbed each of them with a dagger, or knocked them on the head, man by man.”
After Mr. Erskine was gone,' a discussion took place, whether the present Earl of Buchan, when Lord Cardross, did right to refuse to go Secretary of the Embassy to Spain, when Sir James Gray, a man of inferiour rank, went Abassadour. Dr. Johnson said, that perhaps in point of interest he did wrong; but in point of dignity he did well. Sir Alexander insisted that he was wrong; and said that Mr. Pitt intended it as an advantageous thing for him. “Why, Sir, (said Johnson,) 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 denieaned himself strangely had he accepted of such a situation. Sir, had he gone Secretary while his inferiour was Ambassadour, he would have been a traitor to his rank and family.”
I talked of the little attachment which subsisted between near relations in London. - Sir, (said Johnson,) in a country so commercial as ours, where every man can do for himself, there is not so much occasion for that attachment. No man is thought the worse of here, whose brother was hanged. In uncommercial countries, many of the branches of a family must depend on the stock; so, in order to
* One hundred and eighty-five thousand. See Isaiah, xxxvii. 36, and 2 Kings, xix. 35. M.]
make the head of the family take care of them, they 1772. are represented as connected with his reputation, Ætat.63. that, self-love being interested, he may exert himself to promote their interest. 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 unnecessary, and there being few opportunties of intercourse. One brother is a merchant in the city, and another is an officer in the guards : how little intercouse can these two have !”
I argued warmly for the old feudal system. Sir Alexander opposed it, and talked of the pleasure of seeing all men free and independent, Johnson. “I agree with Mr. Boswell, that there must be a high satisfaction in being a feudal Lord; but we are to consider, that we ought not to wish to have a number of men unhappy for "he satisfaction of one." -I maintained that numbers, namely, the vassals or followers, were not unhappy; for that there was a reciprocal satisfaction between the Lord and them: he being kind in his authority over them; they being respectful 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 resolved not to dine at all this day, I know not for what reason; and I was so unwilling to be deprived of his company, that I was content to submit to suffer a want, which was at first somewhat painful, but he soon made me forget it ; and a man is always pleased with himself, when he finds his intellectual inclinations predominate.
He observed, that to reason philosophically on the nature of prayer, was very unprofitable.
Talking of ghosts, he said, he knew one friend,
who was an honest man and a sensible man, who Ætat. 63.
told him he had seen a ghost; old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer at St. John's Gate. He said, Mr. Cave did not like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horrour whenever it was mentioned. BosweLL.
Pray, Sir, what did he say was the appearance ?" Johnson. “ Why, Sir, something of a shadowy being."
I mentioned witches, and asked him what they properly meant. Johnson. “Why, Sir, they properly mean those who make use of the aid of evil spirits.” OSWELL. “ There is no doubt, Sir, a general report and belief of their having existed.” JoNHSON. - You have not only the general report and belief, but you have many voluntary solemn confessions.” He did not affirm any thing positively upon a subject which it is the fashion of the times to laugh at as a matter of absurd credulity. He only seemed willing, as a candid enquirer after truth, however strange and inexplicable, to shew that he understood what might be urged for it."
On Friday, April 10, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe’s, where we found Dr. Goldsmith.
Armorial bearings having been mentioned, Johnson said they were as ancient as the seige of Thebes, which he proved by a passage in one of the tragedies of Euripidies. *
. See this curious question treated by him with most acute abia lity, - Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” 3d edit. p.
Και πρώτα μεν προσήγε κ. τ. λ.
I started the question, whether duelling was con- 1772. sistent with moral duty. The brave old General
Ætat, 63. fired at this, and said, with a lofty air, “ Undoubtedly a man has a right to defend his honour." GOLDSMITH, (turning to me,) “ I ask you first, Sir, what would you do if you were affronted ?" swered, I should think it necessary to fight. “ Why then, (replied Goldsmith,) that solves the question.” Johnson. “ No, Sir, it does not solve the question. It does not follow, that what a man would do is therefore right.” I said, I wished to have it settled, whether duelling was contrary to the laws of Christianity. Johnson immediately entered on the subject, and treated it in a masterly manner; and so far as I have been able to recollect, his thoughts were these : “ Sir, as men become in a high degree refined, various causes of offence arise ; which are considered to be of such importance, that life must be staked to atone for them, though in reality they are not so. A body that has received a very fine polish may be easily hurt. Before men arrive at this artificial refinement, if one tells his neighbour-he.lies, his neighbourtellshim-helies; if one gives his neighbour a blow, his neighbour gives him a blow : but in a state of highly polished society, an affront is held to be a serious injury. It must therefore, be resented, or rather a duel must be fought upon it; as men have agreed to banish from their society one who puts up with an affront without fighting a duel. Now, Sir, it is never unlawful to fight in self-defence. He, then, who fights a duel, does not fight from passion against his antagonist, but out of self-defence; to avert the stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of society. I could
wish there was not that superfluity of refinement;
but while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may tat. 63. lawfully fight a duel.”
Let it be remembered, that this justification is applicable only to the person who receives an affront. All mankind must condemn the aggressor.
The General told us, that when he was a very
up a glass of wine, and, by a fillip, made some
Dr. Johnson said, “ Pray, General, give us an
A question was started, how far people who disagree in a capital point can live in friendship together. Johnson said they might. Goldsmith said