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that you are doing good when you pay money to those who work, as the recompense of their labour, than when you give money merely in charity. Suppose the ancient luxury of a dish of peacock's brains were to be revived, how many carcases would be left to the poor at a cheap rate! and as to the rout that is made about people who are ruined by extravagance, it is no matter to the nation that some individuals suffer. When so much general productive exertion is the consequence of luxury, the nation does not care though there are debtors in gaol: nay, they would not care though their creditors were there too."
The uncommon vivacity of General Oglethorpe's mind, and variety of knowledge, having sometimes made his conversation seem too desultory; Johnson observed, "Oglethorpe, Sir, never completes what he has to say."
He on the same account made a similar remark on Patrick Lord Elibank; "Sir, there is nothing conclusive in his talk."
When I complained of having dined at a splendid table without hearing one sentence of conversation worthy of being remembered, he said, "Sir, there seldom is any such conversation." BOSWELL. "Why then meet at table?" JOHNSON. " Why, to eat and drink together, and to promote kindness; and, Sir this is better done when there is no solid conver ation for when there is, people differ in opinio, and get into bad humour, or some of the company, who are not capable of such conversation, are left out, and feel themselves uneasy. It was for this rea
son Sir Robert Walpole said, he always talked bawdy at his table, because in that all could join.
Being irritated by hearing a gentleman (1) ask Mr. Levet a variety of questions concerning him, when he was sitting by, he broke out, "Sir, you have but two topics, yourself and me. I am sick of both." "A man," said he, "should not talk of himself, nor much of any particular person. He should take care not to be made a proverb; and, therefore, should avoid having any one topic of which people can say, ' We shall hear him upon it.' There was a Dr. Oldfield, (2) who was always talking of the Duke of Marlborough. He came into a coffeehouse one day, and told that his grace had spoken in the House of Lords for half an hour. 'Did he indeed speak for half an hour?' (said Belchier, the surgeon). - 'Yes.'-' And what did he say of Dr. Oldfield ?'—' Nothing.' —-' Why then, Sir, he was very ungrateful; for Dr. Oldfield could not have spoken for a quarter of an hour, without saying something of him.'”
"Every man is to take existence on the terms on which it is given to him. To some men it is given on condition of not taking liberties, which other men may take without much harm. One may drink wine, and be nothing the worse for it: on another, wine may have effects so inflammatory as to injure him both in body and mind, and perhaps make him com
(1) Probably Mr. Boswell himself, who frequently practised this mode of obtaining information.
(2) This, I suppose, was Joshua Oldfield, D.D., the only contemporary of the Duke of Marlborough's, of that name and degree, that I know of. - C.
mit something for which he may deserve to be hanged."
"Lord Hailes's Annals of Scotland' have not that painted form which is the taste of this age; but it is a book which will always sell, it has such a stability of dates, such a certainty of facts, and such a punctuality of citation. I never before read Scotch history with certainty."
I asked him whether he would advise me to read the Bible with a commentary, and what commentaries he would recommend. JOHNSON. "To be sure, Sir, I would have you read the Bible with a commentary; and I would recommend Lowth and Patrick on the Old Testament, and Hammond on the New."
During my stay in London this spring, I solicited his attention to another law case, in which I was engaged. In the course of a contested election for the borough of Dunfermline, which I attended as one of my friend Colonel (afterward Sir Archibald) Campbell's counsel, one of his political agents — who was charged with having been unfaithful to his employer, and having deserted to the opposite party for a pecuniary reward attacked very rudely in the newspapers the Rev. Mr. James Thomson, one of the ministers of that place, on account of a supposed allusion to him in one of his sermons. Upon this the minister, on a subsequent Sunday, arraigned him by name from the pulpit with some severity; and the agent, after the sermon was over, rose up and asked the minister aloud, "What bribe he had received for telling so many lies from the chair ot
verity?" (1) I was present at this very extraordinary scene. The person arraigned, and his father and brother, who also had a share both of the reproof from the pulpit and in the retaliation, brought an action against Mr. Thomson, in the Court of Session, for defamation and damages, and I was one of the counsel for the reverend defendant. The liberty of the pulpit was our great ground of defence; but we argued also on the provocation of the previous attack, and on the instant retaliation. The Court of Session, however, the fifteen judges, who are at the same time the jury,—decided against the minister, contrary to my humble opinion; and several of them expressed themselves with indignation against him. He was an aged gentleman, formerly a military chaplain, and a man of high spirit and honour. Johnson was satisfied that the judgment was wrong, and dictated to me, in confutation of it, the following Argument. [See Appendix, No. II.]
When I read this to Mr. Burke, he was highly pleased, and exclaimed, "Well, he does his work in a workman likemanner." (2)
Mr. Thomson wished to bring the cause by appeal
(1) A Gallicism, which has, it appears, with so many others, become vernacular in Scotland, The French call a pulpit the "chaire de vérité."— C.
(2) As a proof of Dr. Johnson's extraordinary powers of composition, it appears from the original manuscript of this excellent dissertation, of which he dictated the first eight paragraphs on the 10th of May, and the remainder on the 13th, that there are in the whole only seven corrections, or rather variations, and those not considerable. Such were at once the vigorous and accurate emanations of his mind.
before the House of Lords, but was dissuaded by the advice of the noble person who lately presided so ably in that most honourable house, and who was then attorney-general. As my readers will no doubt be glad also to read the opinion of this eminent man upon the same subject, I shall here insert it.
“There is herewith laid before you, 1. Petition for the Rev. Mr. James Thomson, minister of Dunfermline. 2. Answers thereto. 3. Copy of the judgment of the Court of Session upon both. 4. Notes of the opinions of the judges, being the reasons upon which their decree is grounded.
"These papers you will please to peruse, and give your opinion,
"Whether there is a probability of the above de
cree of the Court of Session being reversed, if Mr. Thomson should appeal from the same?" "I don't think the appeal advisable; not only because the value of the judgment is in no degree adequate to the expense; but because there are many chances, that upon the general complexion of the case, the impression will be taken to the disadvantage of the appellant.
“It is impossible to approve the style of that sermon. But the complaint was not less ungracious from that man, who had behaved so ill by his original libel, and at the time when he received the reproach he complains of. In the last article all the plaintiffs are equally concerned. It struck me also with some wonder, that the judges should think so much fervour apposite to the occasion of reproving the defendant for a little excess. Upon the matter, however, I agree with them in condemning the behaviour of the minister, and in think