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65. Severity. — Dogs and Wives. — Mrs. Johnson.
When I once mentioned Shenstone's idea, that some little quarrel among lovers, relations, and friends was useful, and contributed to their general happiness upon the whole, by making the soul feel her elastic force and return to the beloved object with renewed delight; -“ Why, what a pernicious maxim is this now," cries Johnson : "all quarrels ought to be avoided studiously, particularly conjugal ones, as no one can possibly tell where they may end; besides that lasting dislike is often the consequence of occasional disgust, and that the cup of life is surely bitter enough, without squeezing in the hateful rind of resentment.”
It was upon something like the same principle, and from his general hatred of refinement, that when I told him how Dr. Collier, in order to keep the servants in humour with his favourite dog, by seeming rough with the animal himself on many occasions, and crying out, “ Why will nobody knock this cur's brains out?” meant to conciliate their tenderness towards Pompey; he returned me for answer, “ that the maxim was evidently false, and founded on ignorance of human life: that the servants would kick the dog the sooner for having obtained such a sanction to their severity: and I once,” added he, “chid my wife for beating the cat before the maid, “who will now,' said I, treat puss with cruelty, perhaps, and plead her mistress's example.””
I asked him upon this, if he ever disputed with his wife? (I had heard that he loved her passionately.) “ Perpetually," said he : "my wife had a particular reverence for cleanliness, and desired the praise of neatness in her dress and furniture, as many ladies do, till they become troublesome to their best friends, slaves to their own besoms, and only sigh for the hour of sweeping their husbands out of the house as dirt and useless lumber : 'A clean floor is so comfortable,' she would say sometimes, by way of twitting; till at last I told her, that I thought we had had talk enough about the floor, we would now have a touch at the ceiling."
I have heard him blame her for a fault many people have, of setting the miseries of their neighbours half unintentionally, half wantonly before their eyes, showing them the bad side of their profession, situation, &c. He said, “ she would lament the dependence of pupilage to a young heir, &c.; and once told a waterman who rowed her along the Thames in a wherry, that he was no happier than a galley slave, one being chained to the oar by authority, the other by want. I had, however,” said he, laughing, “the wit to get her daughter on my side always before we began the dispute. She read comedy better than any body he ever heard,” he said ; "in tragedy she mouthed too much.”
66. Husband and Wife. — Boarding-schools. When any disputes arose between our married acquaintance, Mr. Johnson always sided with the husband, “ whom,” he said, “ the woman had probably provoked so often, she scarce knew when or how she had disobliged him first." “ Women,” says Dr. Johnson, “give great offence by a contemptuous spirit of noncompliance on petty occasions. The man calls his wife to walk with him in the shade, and she feels a strange desire just at that moment to sit in the sun : he offers to read her a play, or sing her a song, and she calls the children in to disturb them, or advises him to seize that opportunity of settling the family accounts. Twenty such tricks will the faithfulest wife in the world not refuse to play, and then look astonished when the fellow fetches in a mistress."
Boarding-schools were established,” continued be, “ for the conjugal quiet of the parents : the two partners cannot agree which child to fondle, nor how to fondle them ; so they put the young ones to school, and remove the cause of contention. The little girl pokes her head, the mother reproves her sharply: Do not mind your mamma,' says the father, ‘my dear, but do your own way.' The mother complains to me of this : Madam,' said I, 'your husband is right all the while: he is with you but two hours of the day perhaps, and then you tease him by making the child cry. Are not ten hours enough for
tuition ? And are the hours of pleasure so frequent in life, that when a man gets a couple of quiet ones to spend in familiar chat with his wife, they must be poisoned by petty mortifications? Put missey to school ; she will learn to hold her head like her neighbours, and you will no longer torment your family for want of other talk.' ”
67. Vacuity of Life. The vacuity of life had, at some early period of his life, struck so forcibly on the mind of Mr. Johnson, that it became, by repeated impression, his favourite hypothesis ; and the general tenor of his reasonings commonly ended there, wherever they might begin. Such things, therefore, as other philosophers often attribute to various and contradictory causes, appeared to him uniform enough : all was done to fill up the time, upon his principle. I used to tell him that it was like the clown's answer, in “ As You Like It,” of “Oh Lord, Sir !” for that it suited every occasion. One man, for example, was profligate and wild, as we call it — followed the girls, or sat still at the gaming-table. “Why, life must be filled up, says Johnson, “and the man who is not capable of intellectual pleasures must content himself with such as his senses can afford.” Another was a hoarder : “ Why, a fellow must do something ; and what so easy to a narrow mind as hoarding halfpence till they turn into sixpences ?”
68. Avarice. Avarice was a vice against which, however, I never much heard Mr. Johnson declaim, till one represented it to him connected with cruelty, or some such disgraceful companion. “ Do not,” said he, “ discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste to it: whoever
penny rather than part with it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite; and shows besides a preference, always to be esteemed, of the future to the present moment. Such a mind may be made a good one; but the natural spendthrift, who grasps his pleasures greedily and coarsely, and cares for nothing but
immediate indulgence, is very little to be valued above a negro.'
69. Friendship. We were speaking of a gentleman who loved his friend : “ Make him prime minister,” says Johnson, “and see how long his friend will be remembered.” But he had a rougher answer for me, when I commended a sermon preached by an intimate acquaintance of our own at the trading end of the town. “What was the subject, Madam ?” says Dr. Johnson : “ Friendship, Sir, '
Why now, is it not strange that a wise man, like our dear little Evans, should take it in his head to preach on such a subject, in a place where no one can be thinking of it?”
“Why, what are they thinking upon, Sir?” said I. “ Why, the men are thinking of their money,
suppose, and the women are thinking of their mops.
70. Laced Coats. — Gentlemen. Dr. Johnson did not like that the upper ranks should be dignified with the name of the world. Sir Joshua Reynolds said one day, that nobody wore laced coats now; and that once every body wore them.
« See now," says Johnson, “ how absurd that is; as if the bulk of mankind consisted of fine gentlemen that came to him to sit for their pictures. If every man who wears a laced coat (that he can pay for) was extirpated, who would miss them ?” With all this haughty contempt of gentility, no praise was more welcome to Dr. Johnson, than that which he said had the notions or manners of a gentleman: which character I have heard him define with accuracy, and describe with elegance. “ Officers,” he said, “were falsely supposed to have the carriage of gentlemen ; whereas no profession left a stronger brand behind it than that of a soldier ; and it was the essence of a gentleman's character to bear the visible mark of no profession whatever.”
71. Molly Aston. Molly Aston,” says Dr. Johnson, “ was a beauty and a scholar, and a wit and Whig; and she talked all in praise of liberty ; and so I made this epigram upon her. She was the loveliest creature I ever saw!
‘Liber ut esse velim, suasisti, pulchra Maria,
Ut maneam liber pulchra Maria, vale !"
If freedom we seek - fair Maria, adieu !'" “ It will do well enough,” replied he ;
“ but it is translated by a lady, and the ladies never loved Molly Aston.”
I asked him what his wife thought of this attachment? “ She was jealous, to be sure,” said he, “and teased me sometimes when I would let her; and one day, as a fortune-telling gipsy passed us when we were walking out in company with two or three friends in the country, she made the wench look at my hand, but soon repented her curiosity; for, says the gipsy, • Your heart is divided, Sir, between a Betty and a Molly: Betty loves you best, but you take most delight in Molly's company.' When I turned about to laugh, I saw my wife was crying.
was crying. Pretty charmer! she had no reason!”
72. Mrs. Fitzherbert. It was, I believe, long after the currents of life had driven him to a great distance from this lady, that he spent much of his time with Mrs. Fitzherbert, of whom he always spoke with esteem and tenderness, and with a veneration very difficult to deserve. said he, “ loved her husband as we hope and desire to be loved by our guardian angel. Fitzherbert was a gay, good-humoured fellow, generous of his money and of his meat, and desirous of nothing but cheerful society among
6. That woman,