The Life of Johnson HTML version
Talking of education, 'People have now a-days, (said he,) got a strange opinion that every
thing should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good
as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be best
taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shewn. You may teach chymistry
by lectures.--You might teach making of shoes by lectures!'
At night I supped with him at the Mitre tavern, that we might renew our social intimacy
at the original place of meeting. But there was now a considerable difference in his way
of living. Having had an illness, in which he was advised to leave off wine, he had, from
that period, continued to abstain from it, and drank only water, or lemonade.
I told him that a foreign friend of his, whom I had met with abroad, was so wretchedly
perverted to infidelity, that he treated the hopes of immortality with brutal levity; and
said, 'As man dies like a dog, let him lie like a dog.' JOHNSON. 'IF he dies like a dog,
LET him lie like a dog.' I added, that this man said to me, 'I hate mankind, for I think
myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he must be
very singular in his opinion, if he thinks himself one of the best of men; for none of his
friends think him so.'--He said, 'no honest man could be a Deist; for no man could be so
after a fair examination of the proofs of Christianity.' I named Hume. JOHNSON. 'No,
Sir; Hume owned to a clergyman in the bishoprick of Durham, that he had never read the
New Testament with attention.' I mentioned Hume's notion, that all who are happy are
equally happy; a little miss with a new gown at a dancing school ball, a general at the
head of a victorious army, and an orator, after having made an eloquent speech in a great
assembly. JOHNSON. 'Sir, that all who are happy, are equally happy, is not true. A
peasant and a philosopher may be equally SATISFIED, but not equally HAPPY.
Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness. A peasant has not
capacity for having equal happiness with a philosopher.'
Dr. Johnson was very kind this evening, and said to me 'You have now lived five-and-
twenty years, and you have employed them well.' 'Alas, Sir, (said I,) I fear not. Do I know
history? Do I know mathematicks? Do I know law?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, though you
may know no science so well as to be able to teach it, and no profession so well as to be
able to follow it, your general mass of knowledge of books and men renders you very
capable to make yourself master of any science, or fit yourself for any profession.' I
mentioned that a gay friend had advised me against being a lawyer, because I should be
excelled by plodding block- heads. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, in the formulary and statutory
part of law, a plodding block-head may excel; but in the ingenious and rational part of it a
plodding block-head can never excel.'
I talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the world, by courting great men, and
asked him whether he had ever submitted to it. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, I never was near