THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. IX LIVES AND LETTERS
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Table of Contents
ABELARD AND HELOISE Love-Letters
AMIEL, H.F. Fragments of an Intimate Diary
AUGUSTINE, SAINT Confessions
BOSWELL, JAMES Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
BREWSTER, SIR DAVID Life of Sir Isaac Newton
BUNYAN, JOHN Grace Abounding
CARLYLE, ALEXANDER Autobiography
CARLYLE, THOMAS Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell Life of Schiller
CELLINI, BENVENUTO Autobiography
CHATEAUBRIAND, FRANCOIS RENE DE Memoirs from Beyond the Grave
CHESTERFIELD, EARL OF Letters to His Son
CICERO, MARCUS TULLIUS Letters
COLERIDGE, SAMUEL TAYLOR Biographia Literaria
COWPER, WILLIAM Letters
DE QUINCEY, THOMAS Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
DUMAS, ALEXANDRE Memoirs
EVELYN, JOHN Diary
FORSTER, JOHN Life of Goldsmith
FOX, GEORGE Journal
FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN Autobiography
GASKELL, MRS. The Life of Charlotte Bronte
GIBBON, EDWARD Memoirs
GOETHE, J.W. VON Letters to Zelter Poetry and Truth Conversations with Eckermann
GRAY, THOMAS Letters
HAMILTON, ANTONY Memoirs of the Count De Grammont
HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL Our Old Home
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
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ABELARD AND HELOISE
In the Paris cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, on summer Sundays, flowers and wreaths are still laid on the tomb of a woman who died nearly 750 years ago. It is the grave of Heloise and of her lover Abelard, the hero and heroine of one of the world's greatest love stories. Born in 1079, Abelard, after a scholastic activity of twenty-five years, reached the highest academic dignity in Christendom—the Chair of the Episcopal School in Paris. When he was 38 he first saw Heloise, then a beautiful girl of 17, living with her uncle, Canon Fulbert. Abelard became her tutor, and fell madly in love with her. The passion was as madly returned. The pair fled to Brittany, where a child was born. There was a secret marriage, but because she imagined it would hinder Abelard's advancement, Heloise denied the marriage. Fulbert was furious. With hired assistance, he invaded Abelard's rooms and brutally mutilated him. Abelard, distressed by this degradation, turned monk. But he must have Heloise turn nun; she agreed, and at 22 took the veil. Ten years later she learned that Abelard had not found content in his retirement, and wrote to him the first of the five famous letters. Abelard died in 1142, and his remains were given into the keeping of Heloise. Twenty years afterwards she died, and was buried beside him at Paraclete. In 1800 their remains were taken to Paris, and in 1817 interred in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery. The love-letters, originally written in Latin, about 1128, were first published in Paris in 1616.
I.—Heloise to Abelard
Heloise has just seen a "consolatory" letter of Abelard's to a friend. She had no right to open it, but in justification of the liberty she took, she flatters herself that she may claim a privilege over everything which comes from that hand.
"But how dear did my curiosity cost me! What disturbance did it occasion, and how surprised I was to find the whole letter filled with a particular and melancholy account of our misfortunes! Though length of time ought to have closed up my wounds, yet the seeing them described by you was sufficient to make them all open and bleed afresh. Surely all the misfortunes of lovers are conveyed to them through the eyes. Upon reading your letter I feel all mine renewed. Observe, I beseech you, to what a wretched condition you have reduced me; sad, afflicted, without any possible comfort unless it proceed from you. Be not then unkind, nor deny me, I beg of you, that little relief which you only can give. Let me have a faithful account of all that concerns you; I would know everything, be it ever so unfortunate. Perhaps by mingling my sighs with yours I may make your sufferings less, for it has been said that all sorrows divided are made lighter.
"I shall always have this, if you please, and it will always be agreeable to me that, when I receive a letter from you, I shall know you still remember me. I have your picture in my room. I never pass it without stopping to look at it. If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? We may write to each other; so innocent a pleasure is not denied us. I shall read that you are my husband, and you shall see me sign myself your wife. In spite of all our misfortunes, you may be what you please in your letter. Having lost the substantial pleasures of seeing and possessing you, I shall in some measure compensate this loss by the satisfaction I shall find in your writing. There I shall read your most sacred thoughts; I shall carry them always about with me; I shall kiss them every moment. I cannot live if you will not tell me that you still love me.
"When you write to me you will write to your wife; marriage has made such a correspondence lawful and since you can without the least scandal satisfy me why will you not? I am not only engaged by my vows, but I have the fear of my uncle before me. There is nothing, then, that you need dread. You have been the occasion of all my misfortunes, you therefore must be the instrument of my comfort. You cannot but remember (for lovers cannot forget) with what pleasure I have passed whole days in hearing your discourse; how, when you were absent, I shut myself from everyone to write to you; how uneasy I was till my letter had come to your hands; what artful management it required to engage messengers. This detail perhaps surprises you, and you are in pain for what may follow. But I am no longer ashamed that my passion for you had no bounds, for I have done more than all this.
"I have hated myself that I might love you; I came hither to ruin myself in a perpetual imprisonment that I might make you live quietly and at ease. Nothing but virtue, joined to a love perfectly disengaged from the senses, could have produced such effects. Vice never inspires anything like this; it is too much enslaved to the body. This was my cruel uncle's notion; he measured my virtue by the frailty of my sex, and thought it was the man and not the person I loved. But he has been guilty to no purpose. I love you more than ever, and so revenge myself on him. I will still love you with all the tenderness of my soul till the last moment of my life."
Formerly, she tells him, the man was the least she valued in him. It was his heart she desired to possess. "You cannot but be entirely persuaded of this by the extreme unwillingness I showed to marry you, though I knew that the name of wife was honourable in the world and holy in religion; yet the name of your mistress had greater charms because it was more free. The bonds of matrimony, however honourable, still bear with them a necessary engagement, and I was very unwilling to be necessitated to love always a man who would perhaps not always love me. I despised the name of wife that I might live happy with that of mistress."
And then, ecstatically recalling the old happy times, she deplores that she has nothing left but the painful memory that they are past. Beyond that, she has no regret except that against her will she must now be innocent. "My misfortune was to have cruel relatives whose malice destroyed the calm we enjoyed; had they been reasonable, I had now been happy in the enjoyment of my dear husband. Oh, how cruel were they when their blind fury urged a villain to surprise you in your sleep! Where was I—where was your Heloise then? What joy should I have had in defending my lover! I would have guarded you from violence at the expense of my life. Oh, whither does this excess of passion hurry me? Here love is shocked, and modesty deprives me of words."
She goes on to reproach him with his neglect and silence these ten years. When she pronounced her "sad vow," he had protested that his whole being was hers; that he would never live but to love Heloise. But he has proved the "unfaithful one." Though she is immured in the convent, it was only harsh relatives and "the unhappy consequences of our love and your disgrace" that made her put on the habit of chastity. She is not penitent for the past. At one moment she is swayed by the sentiment of piety, and next moment she yields up her imagination to all that is amorous and tender. "Among those who are wedded to God I am wedded to a man; among the heroic supporters of the Cross I am the slave of a human desire; at the head of a religious community I am devoted to Abelard alone. Even here I love you as much as ever I did in the world. If I had loved pleasures could I not have found means to gratify myself? I was not more than twenty-two years old, and there were other men left though I was deprived of Abelard. And yet I buried myself in a nunnery, and triumphed over life at an age capable of enjoying it to its full latitude. It is to you I sacrifice these remains of a transitory beauty, these widowed nights and tedious days."
And then she closes passionately: "Oh, think of me—do not forget me—remember my love, and fidelity, and constancy: love me as your mistress, cherish me as your child, your sister, your wife! Remember I still love you, and yet strive to avoid loving you. What a terrible saying is this! I shake with horror, and my very heart revolts against what I say. I shall blot all my paper with tears. I end my long letter wishing you, if you desire it (would to Heaven I could!), for ever adieu!"
II. Abelard to Heloise
Abelard's answer to this letter is almost as passionate. He tells how he has vainly sought in philosophy and religion a remedy for his disgrace; how with equal futility he has tried to secure himself from love by the rigours of the monastic life. He has gained nothing by it all. "If my passion has been put under a restraint, my thoughts yet run free. I promise myself that I will forget you, and yet cannot think of it without loving you. After a multitude of useless endeavours I begin to persuade myself that it is a superfluous trouble to strive to free myself; and that it is sufficient wisdom to conceal from all but you how confused and weak I am. I remove to a distance from your person with an intention of avoiding you as an enemy; and yet I incessantly seek for you in my mind; I recall your image in my memory, and in different disquietudes I betray and contradict myself. I hate you! I love you! You call me your master; it is true you were entrusted to my care. I saw you, I was earnest to teach you; it cost you your innocence and me my liberty. If now, having lost the power of satisfying my passion, I had also lost that of loving you, I should have some consolation. But I find myself much more guilty in my thoughts of you, even amidst my tears, than in possessing you when I was in full liberty. I continually think of you; I continually call to mind your tenderness."
He explains some of the means he has tried to make himself forget. He has tried several fasts, and redoubled studies, and exhausted his strength in constant exercises, but all to no purpose. "Oh, do not," he exclaims, "add to my miseries by your constancy. Forget, if you can, your favours and that right which they claim over me; allow me to be indifferent. Why use your eloquence to reproach me for my flight and for my silence? Spare the recital of our assignations and your constant exactness to them; without calling up such disturbing thoughts I have enough to suffer. What great advantages would philosophy give us over other men if, by studying it, we could learn to govern our passions? What a troublesome employment is love!"
Then he tries to excuse himself for his original betrayal. "Those charms, that beauty, that air, which I yet behold at this instant, occasioned my fall. Your looks were the beginning of my guilt; your eyes, your discourse, pierced my heart; and, in spite of that ambition and glory which tried to make a defence, love was soon the master." Even now "my love burns fiercer amidst the happy indifference of those who surround me. The Gospel is a language I do not understand when it opposes my passion. Void of all relish for virtue, without concern for my condition and without application to my studies, I am continually present by my imagination where I ought not to be, and I find I have no power to correct myself." He advises her to give up her mind to her holy vocation as a means of forgetting him. "Make yourself amends by so glorious a choice; make your virtue a spectacle worthy of men and angels. Drink of the chalice of saints, even to the bottom, without turning your eyes with uncertainty upon me. To forget Heloise, to see her no more, is what Heaven demands of Abelard; and to expect nothing from Abelard, to forget him even as an idea, is what Heaven enjoins on Heloise."
He acknowledges that he made her take the veil for his own selfish reasons, but is now bound to admit that "God rejected my offering and my prayer, and continued my punishment by suffering me to continue my love. Thus I bear alike the guilt of your vows and of the passion that preceded them, and must be tormented all the days of my life." Once more he adjures her to deliver herself from the "shameful remains" of a passion which has taken too deep root. "To love Heloise truly," he closes, "is to leave her to that quiet which retirement and virtue afford. I have resolved it: this letter shall be my last fault. Adieu! I hope you will be willing, when you have finished this mortal life, to be buried near me. Your cold ashes need then fear nothing, and my tomb shall be more rich and renowned."
III.—Heloise to Abelard
The passion of Heloise is only inflamed by this letter from Abelard. She has got him to write, and now she wants to see him and to hear more about him. She cynically remarks that he has made greater advances in the way of devotion than she could wish. There, alas! she is too weak to follow him. But she must have his advice and spiritual comfort. "Can you have the cruelty to abandon me? The fear of this stabs my heart." She reproaches him for the "fearful presages" of death he had made in his letter. And as regards his wish that she should take care of his remains, she says: "Heaven, severe as it has been to me, is not so insensible as to permit me to live one moment after you. Life without Abelard were an insupportable punishment, and death a most exquisite happiness if by that means I could be united to him. If Heaven but hearken to my continual cry, your days will be prolonged and you will bury me." It is his part, she says, to prepare her for the great crisis, to receive her last sighs. What could she hope for if he were taken away? "I have renounced without difficulty all the charms of life, preserving only my love, and the secret pleasure of thinking incessantly of you and hearing that you live. Dear Abelard, pity my despair! The higher you raised me above other women, who envied me your love, the more sensible am I now of the loss of your heart. I was exalted to the top of happiness only that I might have the more terrible fall. Nothing could be compared to my pleasures, and now nothing can equal my misery."
She blames herself entirely for Abelard's present position. "I, wretched I, have ruined you, and have been the cause of all your misfortunes. How dangerous it is for a great man to suffer himself to be moved by our sex! He ought from his infancy to be inured to insensibility of heart against all our charms. I have long examined things, and have found that death is less dangerous than beauty. It is the shipwreck of liberty, a fatal snare, from which it is impossible ever to get free."
She protests that she cannot forget. "Even into holy places before the altar I carry the memory of our love; and, far from lamenting for having been seduced by pleasures, I sigh for having lost them." She counts herself more to be pitied than Abelard, because grace and misfortune have helped him, whereas she has still her relentless passions to fight. "Our sex is nothing but weakness, and I have the greater difficulty in defending myself, because the enemy that attacks me pleases me. I doat on the danger which threatens. How, then, can I avoid yielding? I seek not to conquer for fear I should be overcome; happiness enough for me to escape shipwreck and at last reach port. Heaven commands me to renounce my fatal passion for you; but, oh! my heart will never be able to consent to it. Adieu."
IV.—Heloise to Abelard
Abelard has not replied to this letter, and Heloise begins by sarcastically thanking him for his neglect. She pretends to have subdued her passion, and, addressing him rather as priest than lover, demands his spiritual counsel. Thus caustically does she proclaim her inconstancy. "At last, Abelard, you have lost Heloise for ever. Notwithstanding all the oaths I made to think of nothing but you, and to be entertained by nothing but you, I have banished you from my thoughts; I have forgot you. Thou charming idea of a lover I once adored, thou wilt be no more my happiness! Dear image of Abelard! thou wilt no longer follow me, no longer shall I remember thee. Oh, enchanting pleasures to which Heloise resigned herself—you, you have been my tormentors! I confess my inconstancy, Abelard, without a blush; let my infidelity teach the world that there is no depending on the promises of women—we are all subject to change. When I tell you what Rival hath ravished my heart from you, you will praise my inconstancy, and pray this Rival to fix it. By this you will know that 'tis God alone that takes Heloise from you."
She explains how she arrived at this decision by being brought to the gates of death by a dangerous illness. Her passion now seemed criminal. She has therefore torn off the bandages which blinded her, and "you are to me no longer the loving Abelard who constantly sought private conversations with me by deceiving the vigilance of our observers." She enlarges on her resolution. She will "no more endeavour, by the relation of those pleasures our passion gave us, to awaken any guilty fondness you may yet feel for me. I demand nothing of you but spiritual advice and wholesome discipline. You cannot now be silent without a crime. When I was possessed with so violent a love, and pressed you so earnestly to write to me, how many letters did I send you before I could obtain one from you?"
But, alas! her woman's weakness conquers again. For the moment she forgets her resolution, and exclaims: "My dear husband (for the last time I use that title!), shall I never see you again? Shall I never have the pleasure of embracing you before death? What dost thou say, wretched Heloise? Dost thou know what thou desirest? Couldst thou behold those brilliant eyes without recalling the tender glances which have been so fatal to thee? Couldst thou see that majestic air of Abelard without being jealous of everyone who beholds so attractive a man? That mouth cannot be looked upon without desire; in short, no woman can view the person of Abelard without danger. Ask no more to see Abelard; if the memory of him has caused thee so much trouble, Heloise, what would not his presence do? What desires will it not excite in thy soul? How will it be possible to keep thy reason at the sight of so lovable a man?"
She reverts to her delightful dreams about Abelard, when "you press me to you and I yield to you, and our souls, animated with the same passion, are sensible of the same pleasures." Then she recalls her resolution, and closes with these words: "I begin to perceive that I take too much pleasure in writing to you; I ought to burn this letter. It shows that I still feel a deep passion for you, though at the beginning I tried to persuade you to the contrary. I am sensible of waves both of grace and passion, and by turns yield to each. Have pity, Abelard, on the condition to which you have brought me, and make in some measure my last days as peaceful as my first have been uneasy and disturbed."
V.—Abelard to Heloise
Abelard remains firm. "Write no more to me, Heloise, write no more to me; 'tis time to end communications which make our penances of no avail," he says. "Let us no more deceive ourselves with remembrance of our past pleasures; we but make our lives troubled and spoil the sweets of solitude. Let us make good use of our austerities, and no longer preserve the memories of our crimes amongst the severities of penance. Let a mortification of body and mind, a strict fasting, continual solitude, profound and holy meditations, and a sincere love of God succeed our former irregularities."
Both, he deplores, are still very far from this enviable state. "Your heart still burns with that fatal fire you cannot extinguish, and mine is full of trouble and unrest. Think not, Heloise, that I here enjoy a perfect peace; I will for the last time open my heart to you; I am not yet disengaged from you, and though I fight against my excessive tenderness for you, in spite of all my endeavours I remain but too sensible of your sorrows, and long to share in them. The world, which is generally wrong in its notions, thinks I am at peace, and imagining that I loved you only for the gratification of the senses, have now forgot you. What a mistake is this!"
He exhorts her to strive, to be more firm in her resolutions, to "break those shameful chains which bind you to the flesh." He pictures the death of a saint and he works upon her fears by impressing upon her the terrors of hell. His last recorded words to her are these:
"I question not, Heloise, but you will hereafter apply yourself in good earnest to the business of your salvation; this ought to be your whole concern. Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart—it is the best advice I can give you, for the remembrance of a person we have loved guiltily cannot but be hurtful, whatever advances we may have made in the way of virtue. When you have extirpated your unhappy inclination towards me, the practice of every virtue will become easy; and when at last your life is conformable to that of Christ, death will be desirable to you. Your soul will joyfully leave this body, and direct its flight to heaven. Then you will appear with confidence before your Saviour; you will not read your reprobation in the Judgement Book, but you will hear your Saviour say: 'Come, partake of My glory, and enjoy the eternal reward I have appointed for those virtues you have practised.'
"Farewell, Heloise, this is the last advice of your dear Abelard; for the last time let me persuade you to follow the rules of the Gospel. Heaven grant that your heart, once so sensible of my love, may now yield to be directed by my zeal. May the idea of your loving Abelard, always present to your mind, be now changed into the image of Abelard truly and sincerely penitent; and may you shed as many tears for your salvation as you have done for our misfortunes."
Then the silence falls for ever.
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HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL
Fragments of an Intimate Diary
Henri Frederic Amiel, born at Geneva on September 21, 1821, was educated there, and later at the University of Berlin; and held a professorship at the University of Geneva from 1849 until his death, on March 11, 1881. The "Journal Intime," of which we give a summary, was published in 1882-84, and an English translation by Mrs. Humphrey Ward appeared in 1885. The book has the profound interest which attaches to all genuine personal confessions of the interior life; but it has the further claim to notice that it is the signal expression of the spirit of its time, though we can no longer call it the modern spirit. The book perfectly renders the disillusion, languor and sentimentality which characterise a self-centred scepticism. It is the record, indeed, of a morbid mind, but of a mind gifted with extraordinary acuteness and with the utmost delicacy of perception. Amiel wrote also several essays and poems, but it is for the "Intimate Diary" alone that his name will be remembered.
Thoughts on Life and Conduct
Only one thing is needful—to possess God. The senses, the powers of the soul, and all outward resources are so many vistas opening upon Divinity, so many ways of tasting and adoring God. To be detached from all that is fugitive, and to seize only on the eternal and the absolute, using the rest as no more than a loan, a tenancy! To worship, understand, receive, feel, give, act—this is your law, your duty, your heaven!
After all, there is only one object which we can study, and that is the modes and metamorphoses of the human spirit. All other studies lead us back to this one.
I have never felt the inward assurance of genius, nor the foretaste of celebrity, nor of happiness, nor even the prospect of being husband, father, or respected citizen. This indifference to the future is itself a sign; my dreams are vague, indefinite; I must not now live, because I am now hardly capable of living. Let me control myself; let me leave life to the living, and betake myself to my ideas; let me write the testament of my thoughts and of my heart.
Heroism and Duty
Heroism is the splendid and wonderful triumph of the soul over the flesh; that is to say, over fear—the fear of poverty, suffering, calumny, disease, isolation and death. There is no true piety without this dazzling concentration of courage.
Duty has this great value—it makes us feel reality of the positive world, while yet it detaches us from it.
How vulnerable am I! If I were a father, what a host of sorrows a child could bring on me! As a husband, I should suffer in a thousand ways, because a thousand conditions are necessary to my happiness. My heart is too sensitive, my imagination anxious, and despair is easy. The "might be" spoils for me what is, the "should be" devours me with melancholy; and this reality, present, irreparable, inevitable, disgusts or frightens me. So it is that I put away the happy images of family life. Every hope is an egg which may hatch a serpent instead of a dove; every joy that fails is a knife-wound; every seed-time entrusted to destiny has its harvest of pain.
What is duty? Is it to obey one's nature at its best and most spiritual; or is it to vanquish one's nature? That is the deepest question. Is life essentially the education of the spirit and of the intelligence, or is it the education of the will? And does will lie in power or in resignation?
Therefore are there two worlds—Christianity affords and teaches salvation by the conversion of the will; but humanism brings salvation by the emancipation of the spirit. The first seizes upon the heart, and the other upon the brain. The first aims at illumining by healing, the other at healing by illumining. Now, moral love, the first of these two principles, places the centre of the individual in the centre of his being. For to love is virtually to know; but to know is not virtually to love. Redemption by knowledge or by intellectual love is inferior to redemption by the will or by moral love. The former is critical and negative; the latter is life-giving, fertilising, positive. Moral force is the vital point.
The Era of Mediocrity
The era of mediocrity in all things is beginning, and mediocrity freezes desire. Equality engenders uniformity; and evil is got rid of by sacrificing all that is excellent, remarkable, extraordinary. Everything becomes less coarse but more vulgar. The epoch of great men is passing away; the epoch of the ant-hill is upon us. The age of individualism is in danger of having no real individuals. Things are certainly progressing, but souls decline.
The point of view of Schleiermacher's "Monologues," which is also that of Emerson, is great indeed, but proud and egotistical, since the Self is made the centre of the universe. It is man rejoicing in himself, taking refuge in the inaccessible sanctuary of self-consciousness, and becoming almost a god. It is a triumph which is not far removed from impiety; it is a superhuman point of view which does away with humility; it is precisely the temptation to which man first succumbed when he desired to become his own master by becoming like the gods.
We are too much encumbered with affairs, too busy, too active; we even read too much. We must throw overboard all our cargo of anxieties, preoccupations and pedantry to recover youth, simplicity, childhood, and the present moment with its happy mood of gratitude. By that leisure which is far from idleness, by an attentive and recollected inaction, the soul loses her creases, expands, unfolds, repairs her injuries like a bruised leaf, and becomes once more new, spontaneous, true, original Reverie, like showers at night, refreshes the thoughts which have become worn and discoloured by the heat of day.
I have been walking in the garden in a fine autumnal rain. All the innumerable, wonderful symbols which the forms and colours of Nature afford charm me and catch at my heart. There is no country scene that is not a state of the soul, and whoever will read the two together will be astonished by their detailed similarity. Far truer is true poetry than science; poetry seizes at first glance in her synthetic way that essential thing which all the sciences put together can only hope to reach at the very end.
Lessons from the Greeks
How much we have to learn from our immortal forefathers, the Greeks; and how far better than we did they solve their problem! Their type was not ours, but how much better did they revere, cultivate and ennoble the man they knew! Beside them we are barbarians in a thousand ways, as in education, eloquence, public life, poetry, and the like. If the number of its accomplished men be the measure of a civilization, ours is far below theirs. We have not slaves beneath us, but we have them among us. Barbarism is not at our frontiers, but at our doors. We bear within us greater things, but we ourselves are how much smaller! Strange paradox: that their objective civilisation should have created great men as it were by accident, while our subjective civilisation, contrary to its express mission, turns out paltry halflings. Things are becoming majestic, but man is diminishing.
The Glory of Motherhood
A mother should be to her child as the sun in the heavens, a changeless and ever radiant star, whither the inconstant little creature, so ready with its tears and its daughter, so light, so passionate, so stormy, may come to calm and to fortify itself with heat and light. A mother represents goodness, providence, law, nay, divinity itself, under the only form in which childhood can meet with these high things. If, therefore, she is passionate, she teaches that God is capricious or despotic, or even that there are several gods in conflict. The child's religion depends on the way in which its mother and its father have lived, and not on the way in which they have spoken. The inmost tone of their life is precisely what reaches their child, who finds no more than comedy or empty thunder in their maxims, remonstrances and punishments. Their actual and central worship—that is what his instinct infallibly perceives. A child sees what we are, through all the fictions of what we would be.
It is curious to see, in discussions on speculative matters, how abstract minds, who move from ideas to facts, always do battle for concrete reality; while concrete minds, on the other hand, who move from facts to ideas, are usually the champions of abstract notions. The more intellectual nature trusts to an ethical theory; the more moral nature has an intellectualist morality.
The centre of life is neither in thought, nor in feeling, nor in will; nor even in consciousness in so far as it thinks, feels, or wills; for a moral truth may have been penetrated and possessed in all these ways, and yet escape us still. Far below our consciousness is our being, our substance, our nature. Those truths alone which have entered this profound region, and have become ourselves, and are spontaneous, involuntary, instinctive and unconscious—only these are really our life and more than our external possessions. Now, it is certain that we can find our peace only in life, and, indeed, only in eternal life; and eternal life is God. Only when the creature is one, by a unity of love, with his Creator—only then is he what he is meant to be.
The Secret of Perpetual Youth
There are two degrees of pride—one, wherein a man is self-complacent; the other, wherein he is unable to accept himself. Of these two degrees, the second is probably the more subtle.
The whole secret of remaining young in spite of years is to keep an enthusiasm burning within, by means of poetry, contemplation and charity, or, more briefly, by keeping a harmony in the soul. When everything is rightly ordered within us, we may rest in equilibrium with the work of God. A certain grave enthusiasm for the eternal beauty and order; a glowing mind and cloudless goodwill: these are, perhaps, the foundation of wisdom. How inexhaustible is the theme of wisdom! A peaceful aureole surrounds this rich conception. Wisdom includes all treasures of moral experience, and is the ripest fruit of a well-spent life. She never ages, for she is the very expression of order, and order is eternal. Only the wise man tastes all the savour of life and of every age, because only he can recognise their beauty, dignity and worth. To see all things in God, to make of one's own life a voyage to the ideal, to live with gratitude, recollection, kindness and courage—this was the admirable spirit of Marcus Aurelius. Add to these a kneeling humility and a devoted charity, and you have the wisdom of God's children, the undying joy of true Christians.
The Fascination of Love
Woman would be loved without reason, without analysis; not because she is beautiful, or good, or cultivated, or gracious, or spiritual, but because she exists. Every analysis seems to her an attenuation and a subordination of her personality to something which dominates and measures it. She rejects it therefore, and rightly rejects it. For as soon as one can say "because," one is no longer under the spell; one appreciates or weighs, and at least in principle one is free. If the empire of woman is to continue, love must remain a fascination, an enchantment; once her mystery is gone, her power is gone also. So love must appear indivisible, irreducible, superior to all analysis, if it is to retain those aspects of infinitude, of the supernatural and the miraculous, which constitute its beauty. Most people hold cheaply whatever they understand, and bow down only before the inexplicable. Woman's triumph is to demonstrate the obscurity of that male intelligence which thinks itself so enlightened; and when women inspire love, they are not without the proud joy of this triumph. Their vanity is not altogether baseless; but a profound love is a light and a calm, a religion and a revelation, which in its turn despises these lesser triumphs of vanity. Great souls wish nothing but the great, and all artifices seem shamefully puerile to one immersed in the infinite.
Man's Useless Yearning
Eternal effort is the note of modern morality. This painful restless "becoming" has taken the place of harmony, equilibrium, joy, that is to say, of "being." We are all fauns and satyrs aspiring to become angels, ugly creatures labouring at our embellishment, monstrous chrysalids trying to become butterflies. Our ideal is no longer the tranquil beauty of the soul, it is the anguish of Laocoon fighting with the hydra of evil. No longer are there happy and accomplished men; we are candidates, indeed, for heaven, but on earth galley-slaves, and we row away our life in the expectation of harbour. It seems possible that this perfecting of which we are so proud is nothing else but a pretentious imperfection.
The "becoming" seems rather negative than positive; it is the lessening of evil, but is not itself the good; it is a noble discontent, but is by no means felicity. This ceaseless pursuit of an endless end is a generous madness, but is not reason; it is the yearning for what can never be, a touching malady, but it is not wisdom. Yet there is none who may not achieve harmony; and when he has it, he is within the eternal order, and represents the divine thought at least as clearly as a flower does, or a solar system. Harmony seeks nothing that is outside herself. She is exactly that which she should be; she expresses goodness, order, law, truth, honour; she transcends time and reveals the eternal.
Memories of the Golden Age
In the world of society one must seem to live on ambrosia and to know none but noble thoughts. Anxiety, want, passion, simply do not exist. All realism is suppressed as brutal. It is a world which amuses itself with the flattering illusion that it lives above the clouds and breathes mythological air. That is why all vehemence, the cry of Nature, all suffering, thoughtless familiarity, and every frank sign of love shock this delicate medium like a bombshell; they shatter this collective fabric, this palace of clouds, this enchanted architecture, just as shrill cockcrow scatters the fairies into hiding. These fine receptions are unconsciously a work of art, a kind of poetry, by which cultivated society reconstructs an idyll that is age-long dead. They are confused memories of the golden age, or aspirations after a harmony which mundane reality has not in it to give.
Goethe Under the Lash
I cannot like Goethe: he has little soul. His understanding of love, religion, duty, patriotism, is paltry and even shocking. He lacks an ardent generosity. A central dryness, an ill-cloaked egoism show through his supple and rich talent. True, this selfishness of his at least respects everyone's liberty and applauds all originality; but it helps no one, troubles itself for no one, bears no one's burden; in a word, it lacks charity, the great Christian virtue. To his mind perfection lies in personal nobility, and not in love. His keynote is aesthetic and not moral. He ignores sanctity, and has never so much as reflected on the terrible problem of evil. He believes in the opportunity of the individual, but neither in liberty nor in responsibility. He is a stranger to the social and political aspirations of the multitude; he has no more thought for the disinherited, the feeble, the oppressed, than Nature has.
The profound disquiet of our era never touches Goethe; discords do not affect the deaf. Whoso has never heard the voice of conscience, regret and remorse, cannot even guess at the anxiety of those who have two masters, two laws, and belong to two worlds, the world of Nature and the world of Liberty. His choice is already made; his only world is Nature. But it is far otherwise with humanity. For men hear indeed the prophets of Nature, but they hear also the voice of Religion; the joy of life attracts them, but devotion moves them also; they no longer know whether they hate or adore the crucifix.
Nothing New Under the Sun
Jealousy is a terrible thing; it resembles love, but is in every way its contrary; the jealous man desires, not the good of the loved one, but her dependence on him and his triumph over her. Love is the forgetfulness of Self; but jealousy is the most passionate form of egoism, the exaltation of the despotic, vain and greedy Self, which cannot forget and subordinate itself. The contrast is complete.
The man of fifty years, contemplating the world, finds in it certainly some new things; but a thousand times more does he find old things furbished up, and plagiarisms and modifications rather than improvements. Almost everything in the world is a copy of a copy, a reflection of a reflection; and any real success or progress is as rare to-day as it has ever been. Let us not complain of it, for only so can the world last. Humanity advances at a very slow pace; that is why history continues. It may be that progress fans the torch to burn away; perhaps progress accelerates death. A society which should change rapidly would only arrive the sooner at its catastrophe. Yes, progress must be the aroma of life, and not its very substance.
To renounce happiness and think only of duty; to enthrone conscience where the heart has been: this willing immolation is a noble thing. Our nature jibes at it, but the better self will submit to it. To hope for justice is the proof of a sickly sensibility; we ought to be able to do without justice. A virile character consists in just that independence. Let the world think of us what it will; that is its affair, not ours. Our business is to act as if our country were grateful, as if the world judged in equity, as if public opinion could see the truth, as if life were just, and as if men were good.
The Only Art of Peace and Rest
Few people know of our physical sufferings; our nearest and dearest have no idea of our interviews with the king of terrors. There are thoughts for which there is no confidant, sorrows which may not be shared. Kindness itself leads us to hide them. One suffers alone; one dies alone; alone one hides away in the little apartment of six boards. But we are not forbidden to open this solitude to our God. Thus the soliloquy of anguish becomes a dialogue of peace, reluctance becomes docility, suffocation becomes liberty.
Willing what God wills is the only art of peace and rest. It is strange to go to bed knowing that one may not see to-morrow. I knew it well last night; yet here I am. When one counts the future by hours, and to-night is already the unknown, one gives up everything and just talks with oneself. I return to my mind and to my journal, as the hare returns to its form to die. As long as I can hold pen and have a moment of solitude I will recollect myself before this my echo, and converse with my God. Not an examination of conscience, not an act of contrition, not a cry of appeal. Only an Amen of submission ... "My child, give Me your heart."
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Aurelius Augustine was born at Tagaste, a city of Numidia, on November 13, 354. This greatest of the Latin Christian Fathers was the son of a magistrate named Patricius, who was a pagan till near the close of his life. Augustine was sent to school at Madaura, and next to study at Carthage. His mother, Monica, early became an ardent Christian, and her saintly influence guided the youth towards the light; but entanglement in philosophic doubts constrained him to associate with the Manichaeans, and then with the Platonists. His mental struggles lasted eleven years. Going to Rome to teach rhetoric, he was invited to Milan to lecture, and there was attracted by the eloquent preaching of Bishop Ambrose. His whole current of thought was changed, and the two became ardent friends. In 391, Augustine was ordained priest by Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, whose colleague he was appointed in 395. At the age of 41, he was designated Bishop of Hippo, and filled the office for 35 years, passing away in his 76th year, on August 28, 430, during the third year of the siege of Hippo by the Vandals under Genseric. His numerous and remarkable works stamp him as one of the world's transcendent intellects. His two monumental treatises are the "Confessions" and "The City of God."
I.—Regrets of a Mis-spent Youth
"Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised." My faith, Lord, should call on Thee, which Thou hast given me by the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the preacher, Ambrose. How shall I call upon my God? What room is there within me, wherein my God can come? Narrow is the house of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that it may be able to receive Thee. Thou madest us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
I began, as yet a boy, to pray to Thee, that I might not be beaten at school; but I sinned in disobeying the commands of parents and teachers through love of play, delighting in the pride of victory in my contests. I loved not study, and hated to be forced to it. Unless forced, I did not learn at all. But no one does well against his will, even though what he does is good. But what was well came to me from Thee, my God, for Thou hast decreed that every inordinate affection should carry with it its own punishment.
But why did I so much hate the Greek which I was taught as a boy? I do not yet fully know. For the Latin I loved; not what my first masters, but what the so-called grammarians taught me. For those first lessons—reading, writing, and arithmetic—I thought as great a burden and as vexatious as any Greek. But in the other lessons I learned the wanderings of AEneas, forgetful of my own, and wept for the dead Dido because she killed herself for love; while, with dry eyes, I endured my miserable self-dying among these things, far from Thee, my God, my life.
Why, then, did I hate the Greek classics, full of like fictions to those in Virgil? For Homer also curiously wove similar stories, and is most pleasant, yet was disagreeable to my boyish taste. In truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue dashed as with gall all the sweetness of the Greek fable. For not one word of it did I understand, and to make me learn I was urged vehemently with cruel threats and stripes. Yet I learned with delight the fictions in Latin concerning the wicked doings of Jove and Juno, and for this I was pronounced a helpful boy, being applauded above many of my own age and class.
I will now call to mind my past uncleanness and the carnal corruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. What was it that I delighted in, but to love and to be loved? But I kept not the measure of love of soul to soul, friendship's bright boundary, for I could not discern the brightness of love from the fog of lust. Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the delights of Thy house, in that sixteenth year of my age, when the madness of licence took the rule over me? My friends, meanwhile, took no care by marriage to prevent my fall; their only care was that I should learn to speak excellently, and become a great orator. Now, for that year my studies were intermitted; whilst, after my return from Madaura—a neighbouring city whither I had journeyed to learn grammar and rhetoric—the expenses for a further journey to Carthage were provided for me; and that rather by sacrifice than by the ordinary means of my father, who was but a poor citizen of Tagaste. But yet this same father had no concern how I grew towards Thee; or how chaste I were; or, so that I were but eloquent, how barren I were to Thy culture, O God.
But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with my parents, the briers of unclean desires grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to root them out. My father rejoiced to see me growing towards manhood, but in my mother's breast Thou hadst already begun Thy temple, whereas my father was as yet but a catechumen, and that but recently. I remember how she, seized with a holy fear and trembling, in private warned me with great anxiety against fornication. These seemed to me womanish advices which I should blush to obey. But they were Thine, and I knew it not. I ran headlong with such blindness that amongst my equals I was ashamed of being less shameless than others when I heard them boast of their wickedness. I would even say I had done what I had not done that I might not seem contemptible exactly in proportion as I was innocent.
II.—Monica's Prayers and Augustine's Paganism
To Carthage I came, where there sang in my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. I denied the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lust.
Stage plays always carried me away, full of images of my miseries and of fuel to my fire. In the theatres I rejoiced with lovers, when they succeeded in their criminal intrigues, imaginary only in the play; and when they lost one another I sorrowed with them. Those studies also which were accounted commendable, led me away, having a view of excelling in the courts of litigation, where I should be the more praised the craftier I became. And now I was the head scholar in the rhetoric school, whereat I swelled with conceit. I learned books of eloquence, wherein I desired to be eminent. In the course of study I fell upon a certain book of Cicero which contains an exhortation to philosophy, and is called "Hortensius." This book changed my disposition, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord. I longed with an incredible ardour for the immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise a wish that I might return to Thee. I resolved then to turn my mind to the Holy Scriptures, to see what they were; but when I turned to them my pride shrank from their humility, disdaining to be one of the little ones.
Therefore, I fell among men proudly doting, exceeding carnal, and great talkers, who served up to me, when hungering after Thee, the Sun and Moon, beautiful works of Thine, but not Thyself. Yet, taking these glittering phantasies to be Thee, I fed thereon, but was not nourished by them, but rather became more empty. I knew not God to be a Spirit. Nor knew I that true inward righteousness, which judgeth not according to custom, but out of the most righteous laws of Almighty God. Under the influence of these Manichaeans I scoffed at Thy holy servants and prophets. And Thou "sentest Thine hand from above," and deliveredst my soul from that profound darkness. My mother, Thy faithful one, wept to Thee for me, for she discerned the death wherein I lay, and Thou heardest her, O Lord. Thou gavest her answers first in visions. There passed yet nine years in which I wallowed in the mire of that deep pit and the darkness of error. Thou gavest her meantime another answer by a priest of Thine, a certain bishop brought up in Thy Church, and well studied in books, whom she entreated to converse with me and to refute my errors. He answered that I was as yet unteachable, being puffed up with the novelty of that heresy. "But let him alone awhile," saith he; "only pray to God for him, he will of himself, by reading, find what that error is, and how great its impiety." He told her how he himself, when a little one, had by his mother been consigned over to the Manichaeans, but had found out how much that sect was to be abhorred, and had, therefore, avoided it. But he assured her that the child of such tears as hers could not perish. Which answer she took as an oracle from heaven.
Thus, from my nineteenth year to my twenty-eighth we lived, hunting after popular applause and poetic prizes, and secretly following a false religion. In those years I taught rhetoric, and in those years I had conversation with one—not in that which is called lawful marriage—yet with but one, remaining faithful even unto her. Those impostors whom they style astrologers I consulted without scruple. In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I had made one my friend, only too dear to me from a community of studies and pursuits, of my own age, and, as myself, in the first bloom of youth. I had perverted him also to those superstitions and pernicious fables for which my mother bewailed me. With me he now erred in mind, nor could my soul be happy without him But behold Thou wert close on the steps of Thy fugitives, at once "God of Vengeance" and Fountain of Mercies, turning us to Thyself by wonderful means. Thou tookest that man out of this life, when he had scarce filled up one whole year of my friendship, sweet to me above all sweetness of that my life. For long, sore sick of a fever, he lay senseless in a death-sweat; so that, his recovery being despaired of, he was baptised in that condition. He was relieved and restored, and I essayed to jest with him, expecting him to do the same, at that baptism which he had received when in the swoon. But he shrank from me as from an enemy, and forbade such language. A few days afterwards he was happily taken from my folly, that with Thee he might be preserved for my comfort. In my absence he was attacked again by the fever, and so died. At this grief my heart was utterly darkened. My native country was a torment, and my father's house a strange unhappiness to me. At length I fled out of the country, for so my eyes missed him less where they were wont to see him. And thus from Tagaste I came to Carthage.
III.—The Influence of St. Ambrose on Augustine's Life
I would lay open before my God that nine and twentieth year of my age. There had then come to Carthage a certain Bishop of the Manichaeans, Faustus by name, a great snare of the Devil, and many were entangled by him through the smooth lure of his language. Because he had read some of Cicero's orations and a few of Seneca's books, some of the poets, and such volumes of his own sect as were written in good Latin, he acquired a certain seductive eloquence. But it soon became clear that he was ignorant in those arts in which I thought he excelled, and I began to despair of his solving the difficulties which perplexed me. He was sensible of his ignorance in these things, and confessed it, and thus my zeal for the writings of the Manichaeans was blunted. Thus Faustus, to so many a snare of death, had now, neither willing nor witting it, begun to loosen that wherein I was taken. Thou didst deal with me that I should be persuaded to go to Rome and to teach there rather what I was teaching at Carthage, my chief and only reason being that I heard that young men studied there more peacefully, and were kept under a more regular discipline. My mother remained behind weeping and praying. And, behold, at Rome I was received by the scourge of bodily sickness, and I was going down to hell, carrying all the sins that I had committed. Thou healdest me of that sickness that I might live for Thee to bestow upon me a better and more abiding health. I began then diligently to teach rhetoric in Rome when, lo! I found other offences committed in that city, to which I had not been exposed in Africa, for, on a sudden, a number of youths plot together to avoid paying their master's salary, and remove to another school. When, therefore, they of Milan had sent to Rome to the prefect of the city, to furnish them with a rhetoric reader for their city, I made application that Symmachus, then prefect of the city, would try me by setting me some subject for oration, and so send me. Thus to Milan I came, to Ambrose the bishop, best known to the whole world as among the best of men, Thy servant. To him I was unknowingly led by Thee, that by him I might knowingly be led to Thee. That man of God received me as a father, and showed me an episcopal kindness at my coming. Thenceforth I began to love him. I was delighted with his eloquence as he preached to the people, though I took no pains to learn what he taught, but only to hear how he spake.
My mother had now come to me. When I had discovered to her that I was now no longer a Manichaean, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she was not overjoyed as at something unexpected. But she redoubled her prayers and tears for me now that what she had begged of Thee daily with tears was in so great part realised; and she hurried the more eagerly to the church, and hung on the lips of Ambrose, whom she loved as "an angel of God," because she knew that by him I had been brought to that wavering I was now in. I heard him every Lord's Day expound the word of truth, and was sure that all the knots of the Manichaeans could be unravelled. So I was confounded and converted. Yet I panted after honours, gains, marriage—and in these desires I underwent most bitter crosses.
One day, when I was preparing to recite a panegyric on the Emperor [probably the Emperor Valentinian the Younger], wherein I was to utter many a lie, and, lying, was to be applauded by those who knew I lied, while passing through the streets of Milan, I observed a poor beggar joking and joyous. I sighed, and spoke to the friends around me of the many sorrows of the phantoms we pursued—for by all our effort and toil we yet looked to arrive only at the very joyousness whither that beggar had arrived before us. I was racked with cares, but he, by saying "God bless you!" had got some good wine; I, by talking lies, was hunting after empty praise. Chiefly did I speak of such things with Alypius and Bebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same town with me, and had studied under me, and loved me. But the whirlpool of Carthaginian habits had, when he lived there, drawn him into follies of the circus. One day as I sat teaching my scholars, he entered and listened attentively, while I by chance had in hand a passage which, while I was explaining, suggested to me a simile from the circensian races, not without a jibe at those who were enthralled by that folly. Alpius took it wholly to himself, and he returned no more to the filths of the circensian pastimes in Carthage. But he had gone before me to Rome, and there he was carried away with an incredible eagerness after the shows of gladiators. Him I found at Rome, and he clave to me and went with me to Milan, that he might be with me, and also practise something of the law that he had studied. Bebridius also left Carthage, that with me he might continue the search after truth.
Meantime my sins were being multiplied. Continual effort was made to have me married, chiefly through my mother's pains, that so once married, the health-giving baptism might cleanse me. My concubine being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart, which clave unto her, was torn and wounded; and she returned to Africa, leaving with me my son by her. But, unhappy, I procured another, though no wife.
To Thee be praise, Fountain of Mercies! I was becoming more miserable, and Thou drewest nearer to me in my misery!
IV.—The Birth of a New Life
My evil and abominable youth was now dead. I was passing into early manhood. Meeting with certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin, I therein read, not in the same words, but to the same purpose, that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." But that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" I read not there. That Jesus humbled Himself to the death of the Cross, and was raised from the dead and exalted unto glory, that at His name every knee should bow, I read not there.
Then I sought a way of obtaining strength, and found it not until I embraced "that Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus." Eagerly did I seize that venerable writing of Thy Spirit, and chiefly the Apostle Paul. Whereupon those difficulties vanished wherein he formerly seemed to me to contradict himself and the text of his discourse not to agree with the testimonies of the Law and the Prophets. But now they appeared to me to contain one pure and uniform doctrine; and I learned to "rejoice with trembling."
I had now found the goodly pearl, which, selling all I had, I ought to have bought, and I hesitated. To Simplicianus [sent from Rome to be an instructor and director to Ambrose], then I went, the spiritual father of Ambrose and now a bishop, to whom I related the mazes of my wanderings. He testified his joy that I had read certain books of the Platonists and had not fallen on the writings of other deceitful philosophers. And he related to me the story of the conversion of Victorianus, the translator of those Platonist books, who was not ashamed to become the humble little child of Thy Christ, after he had for years with thundering eloquence inspired the people with the love of Anubis, the barking deity, and all the monster gods who fought against Neptune, Venus and Minerva, so that Rome now adored the deities she had formerly conquered. But this proud worshipper of daemons suddenly and unexpectedly said to Simplicianus, "Get us to the Church; I wish to be made a Christian." And he was baptised to the wonder of Rome and the joy of the Church. I was fired by this story and longed now to devote myself entirely to God, but still did my two wills, one new and the other old, one carnal and the other spiritual, struggle within me; and by their discord undid my soul.
And now Thou didst deliver me out of the bonds of desire, wherewith I was bound most straitly to carnal concupiscence, I will now declare and confess. Upon a day there came to see me and Alpius one Pontitianus, an African fellow-countryman, in high office at the Emperor's court, who was a Christian and baptised. He told us how one afternoon at Trier, when the Emperor was taken up with the circensian games, he and three companions went to walk in gardens near the city walls and lighten on a certain cottage, inhabited by certain of Thy servants, and there they found a little book containing the life of Antony. This some of them began to read and admire; and he, as he read, began to meditate on taking up such a life. By that book he was changed inwardly, as was one of his companions also. Both had affianced brides, who, when they heard of this change, also dedicated their virginity to God.
V.—God's Command to Augustine and the Death of Monica
After much soul-sickness and torment of spirit took place an incident by which Thou didst wholly break my chains. I was bewailing and weeping in my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice as of a boy or girl, I know not what, chanting, and oft repeating "Tolle, lege; tolle, lege" ["Take up and read; take up and read"]. Instantly I rose up, interpreting it to be no other than the voice of God, to open the Book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly I seized the volume of the apostle and opened and read that section on which my eyes fell first: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." No further would I read, nor needed I, for a light as it were of serenity diffused in my heart, and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.
When shall I recall all that passed in those holy days? The vintage-vacation I gave notice to the Milanese to provide their scholars with another master to sell words to them; for I had made my choice to serve Thee. It pleased Alypius also, when the time was come for my baptism, to be born again with me in Thee. We joined with us the boy Adeodatus, born of me, in my sin. Excellently hadst Thou made him. He was not quite fifteen, and in wit surpassed many grave and learned men. We were baptised, and anxiety for our past life vanished from us.
The time was now approaching when Thy handmaid, my mother Monica, was to depart this life. She fell sick of a fever, and on the ninth day of that sickness, and the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the three and thirtieth of mine, was that religious and holy soul set free from the body. Being thus forsaken of so great comfort in her, my soul was wounded. Little by little the wound was healed as I recovered my former thoughts of her holy conversation towards Thee and her holy tenderness and observance towards us. May she rest in peace with her sometime husband Patricius, whom she obeyed, "with patience bringing forth fruit" unto Thee, that she might win him also unto Thee.
This is the object of my confessions now of what I am, not of what I have been—to confess this not before Thee only, but in the ears also of the believing sons of men. Too late I loved Thee! Thou wast with me, but I was not with Thee. And now my whole hope is in nothing but Thy great mercy. Since Thou gavest me continency I have observed it; but I retain the memory of evil habits, and their images come up oft before me. And Thou hast taught me concerning eating and drinking, that I should set myself to take food as medicine. I strive daily against concupiscence in eating and drinking. Thou hast disentangled me from the delights of the ear and from the lusts of the eye. Into many snares of the senses my mind wanders miserably, but Thou pluckest me out mercifully. By pride, vainglory, and love of praise I am tempted, but I seek Thy mercy till what is lacking in me by Thee be renewed and perfected. Thou knowest my unskillfulness; teach me the wondrous things out of Thy law and heal me.
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The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
James Boswell, born on October 18, 1740, was the son of Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck, better known as Lord Auchinleck, one of the senators of the College of Justice, or Supreme Court, of Scotland. Boswell was educated at Edinburgh and Utrecht universities, and was called both to the Scots and the English Bar. He was early interested in letters, and while still a student, published some poems and magazine articles. Boswell was introduced to Dr. Johnson on May 16, 1763. The friendship rapidly ripened, and from 1772 to the death of the illustrious moralist, was unbroken. As an introduction to "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D."—perhaps the greatest of all biographies—we can hardly do better than use the words of the biographer himself. "To write the life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous, task. But as I had the honour and happiness of enjoying Dr. Johnson's friendship for upwards of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this with more advantages, independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing." The "Life" was a signal success at the time of its publication, and even yet is unrivalled in the field of biography. Boswell latterly resided permanently in London, and was proprietor of, and principal contributor to, the "London Magazine". He died in his house in Great Portland Street on May 19, 1795.
I.—Parentage and Education
Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on September 18,1709, and was baptised on the day of his birth. His father was Michael Johnson, a native of Derbyshire, of obscure extraction, who settled in Lichfield as a bookseller and stationer. His mother was Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in Warwickshire. They were well advanced in years when they were married, and never had more than two children, both sons—Samuel, their first born, whose various excellences I am to endeavour to record, and Nathaniel, who died in his twenty-fifth year.
Mr. Michael Johnson was a man of a large and robust body, and of a strong and active mind; yet there was in him a mixture of that disease the nature of which eludes the most minute inquiry, though the effects are well known to be a weariness of life, an unconcern about those things which agitate the greater part of mankind, and a general sensation of gloomy wretchedness. From him, then, his son inherited, with some other qualities, "a vile melancholy," which, in his too strong expression of any disturbance of the mind, "made him mad all his life—at least, not sober." Old Mr. Johnson was a pretty good Latin scholar, and a citizen so creditable as to be made one of the magistrates of Lichfield; and, being a man of good sense and skill in his trade, he acquired a reasonable share of wealth, of which, however, he afterwards lost the greatest part, by engaging unsuccessfully in a manufacture of parchment.
Young Johnson had the misfortune to be much afflicted with the scrofula, or king's evil, which disfigured a countenance naturally well formed, and hurt his visual nerves so much that he did not see at all with one of his eyes, though its appearance was little different from that of the other. Yet, when he and I were travelling in the Highlands of Scotland, and I pointed out to him a mountain, which, I observed, resembled a cone, he corrected my inaccuracy by showing me that it was indeed pointed at the top, but that one side of it was larger than the other. And the ladies with whom he was acquainted agree that no man was more nicely and minutely critical in the elegance of female dress.
He was first taught to read English by Dame Oliver, a widow, who kept a school for young children in Lichfield. He began to learn Latin with Mr. Hawkins, usher, or under-master, of Lichfield School. Then he rose to be under the care of Mr. Hunter, the head-master, who, according to his account "was very severe, and wrong-headedly severe. He used," said he, "to beat us unmercifully, and he did not distinguish between ignorance and negligence." Yet Johnson was very sensible how much he owed to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Langton one day asked him how he had acquired so accurate a knowledge of Latin, in which, I believe, he was exceeded by no man of his time. He said, "My master whipped me very well. Without that, sir, I should have done nothing." Indeed, upon all occasions, he expressed his approbation of enforcing instruction by means of the rod. "The rod," said he, "produces an effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief."
From his earliest years Johnson's superiority was perceived and acknowledged. He was from the beginning a king of men. His schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, has assured me that he never knew him corrected at school but for talking and diverting other boys from their business. He seemed to learn by intuition; for though indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than anyone else. He was uncommonly inquisitive; and his memory was so tenacious that he never forgot anything that he either heard or read. Mr. Hector remembers having recited to him eighteen verses, which, after a little pause, he repeated verbatim.
He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions, for his defective sight prevented him from enjoying them; and he once pleasantly remarked to me "how wonderfully well he had contrived to be idle without them." Of this inertness of disposition Johnson had all his life too great a share.
After having resided for some time at the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford, Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected, and remaining there little more than a year, returned home, where he may be said to have loitered for two years. He had no settled plan of life, and though he read a great deal in a desultory manner, he read only as chance and inclination directed him. "What I read," he told me, "were not voyages and travels, but all literature, sir, all ancient writers, all manly; though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod. But in this irregular manner I had looked into many books which were not known at the universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now Master of Pembroke College, told me I was the best qualified for the university that he had ever known come there."
II—Marriage and Settlement in London
Compelled by his father's straitened circumstances, Johnson left Pembroke College in the autumn of 1731, without taking a degree, having been a member of it little more than three years. In December of this year his father died.
In this forlorn state of his circumstances, he accepted an offer to be employed as usher in the school of Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire. But he was strongly averse to the painful drudgery of teaching, and, having quarrelled with Sir Wolstan Dixie, the patron of the school, he relinquished after a few months a situation which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion and even a degree of horror. Among the acquaintances he made at this period was Mr. Porter, a mercer at Birmingham, whose widow he afterwards married. In what manner he employed his pen in 1733 I have not been able to ascertain. He probably got a little money for occasional work, and it is certain that he was occupied about this time in the translation of Lobo's "Voyage to Abyssinia," which was published in 1735, and brought him five guineas from this same bookseller. It is reasonable to suppose that his rendering of Lobo's work was the remote occasion of his writing, many years after, his admirable philosophical tale, "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia."
Miss Porter told me that when Mr. Johnson was first introduced to her mother his appearance was very forbidding; he was then lean and lank, so that his immense structure of bones was hideously striking to the eye, and the scars of the scrofula were deeply visible. He also wore his hair, which was straight and stiff, and separated behind; and he often had, seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, which tended to excite at once surprise and ridicule. Mrs. Porter was so much engaged by his conversation that she overlooked all these external disadvantages, and said to her daughter, "This is the most sensible man that I ever saw in my life."
Though Mrs. Porter, now a widow, was double the age of Johnson, and her person and manner, as described to me by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means pleasing to others, she must have had a superiority of understanding and talents, as she certainly inspired him with a more than ordinary passion. The marriage took place at Derby, on July 9, 1736.
He now set up a private academy, for which purpose he hired a large house well situated near his native city. In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1736 there is the following advertisement:
"At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by SAMUEL JOHNSON."
But the only pupils that were put under his care were the celebrated David Garrick and his brother George, and a Mr. Offely, a young gentleman of fortune, who died early.
Johnson, indeed, was not more satisfied with his situation as the master of an academy than with that of the usher of a school; we need not wonder, therefore, that he did not keep his academy more than a year and a half. From Mr. Garrick's account he did not appear to have been profoundly reverenced by his pupils. His oddities of manner and uncouth gesticulations could not but be the subject of merriment to them; and in particular, the young rogues used to turn into ridicule his awkward fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he used to name by the familiar appellation of Tetty or Tetsey, which, like Betty or Betsey, is provincially used as a contraction for Elizabeth, her Christian name, but which to us seems ludicrous when applied to a woman of her age and appearance. Mr. Garrick described her to me as very fat, with swelled cheeks of a florid red produced by thick painting, and increased by the liberal use of cordials; flaring and fantastic in her dress, and affected both in her speech and her general behaviour.
While Johnson kept his academy, I have not discovered that he wrote anything except a great portion of his tragedy of "Irene." When he had finished some part of it, he read what he had done to his friend, Mr. Gilbert Walmsley, Registrar of the Prerogative Court of Lichfield, who was so well pleased with this proof of Johnson's abilities as a dramatic writer that he advised him to finish the tragedy and produce it on the stage. Accordingly, Johnson and his friend and pupil, David Garrick, went to try their fortunes in London in 1737, the former with the hopes of getting work as a translator and of turning out a fine tragedy-writer, the latter with the intention of completing his education, and of following the profession of the law. How, indeed, Johnson employed himself upon his first coming to London is not particularly known. His tragedy, of which he had entertained such hopes, was submitted to Mr. Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury Lane Theatre, and rejected.
III.—Poverty Stricken in London
Johnson's first performance in the "Gentleman's Magazine," which for many years was his principal source of employment and support, was a copy of Latin verses, in March, 1738, addressed to the editor. He was now enlisted by Mr. Cave, as a regular coadjutor in his magazine, by which he probably obtained a tolerable livelihood. What we certainly know to have been done by him in this way were the debates in both Houses of Parliament, under the name of "The Senate of Lilliput."
Thus was Johnson employed during some of the best years of his life, solely to obtain an honest support. But what first displayed his transcendent powers, and "gave the world assurance of the Man," was his "London, a Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal," which came out in May this year (1738), and burst forth with a splendour the rays of which will forever encircle his name.
But though thus elevated into fame, Johnson could not expect to produce many such works as his "London," and he felt the hardships of writing for bread. He was therefore willing to resume the office of a schoolmaster, and, an offer being made to him of the mastership of a school, provided he could obtain the degree of Master of Arts, Dr. Adams was applied to by a common friend to know whether that could be granted to him as a favour from the university of Oxford. But it was then thought too great a favour to be asked.
During the next five years, 1739-1743, Johnson wrote largely for the "Gentleman's Magazine," and supplied the account of the Parliamentary Debates from November 19, 1740, to February 23, 1743, inclusive. It does not appear that he wrote anything of importance for the magazine in 1744. But he produced one work this year, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation which he had acquired. This was "The Life of Richard Savage," a man of whom it is difficult to speak impartially without wondering that he was for some time the intimate companion of Johnson; for his character was marked by profligacy, insolence, and ingratitude; yet, as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the statesmen and wits of his time, he could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most eagerly desired; and so his visits to St. John's Gate—the office of the "Gentleman's Magazine"—naturally brought Johnson and him together.
IV.—Preparation of the "Dictionary"
It is somewhat curious that Johnson's literary career appears to have been almost totally suspended in 1745 and 1746. But the year 1747 is distinguished as the epoch when Johnson's arduous and important work, his "Dictionary of the English Language," was announced to the world, by the publication of its "Plan or Prospectus."
The booksellers who contracted with Johnson, single and unaided, for the execution of a work which in other countries has not been effected but by the co-operating exertions of many, were Mr. Robert Dodsley, Mr. Charles Hitch, Mr. Andrew Millar, the two Messieurs Longman, and the two Messieurs Knapton. The price stipulated was fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds. The "Plan" was addressed to Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, then one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state, a nobleman who was very ambitious of literary distinction, and who, upon being informed of the design, had expressed himself in terms very favourable to its success. The plan had been put before him in manuscript For the mechanical part of the work Johnson employed, as he told me, six amanuenses.
In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for May, 1748, he-wrote a "Life of Roscommon," with notes, which he afterwards much improved and inserted amongst his "Lives of the English Poets." And this same year he formed a club in Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, with a view to enjoy literary discussion.
In January, 1749, he published "Vanity of Human Wishes, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated"; and on February 6 Garrick brought out his tragedy at Drury Lane. Dr. Adams was present at the first night of the representation of "Irene," and gave me the following account. "Before the curtain drew up, there were catcalls and whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The prologue, which was 'written by himself in a manly strain, soothed the audience, and the play went off tolerably till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs. Pritchard, the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled on the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow-string around her neck. The audience cried out 'Murder! Murder!' She several times attempted to speak, but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the stage alive." This passage was afterwards struck out, and she was carried off to be put to death behind the scenes, as the play now has it.
Notwithstanding all the support of such performers as Garrick, Barry, Mrs. Pritchard, and every advantage of dress and decoration, the tragedy of "Irene" did not please the public. Mr. Garrick's zeal carried it through for nine nights, so that the author had his three nights' profit; and from a receipt signed by him it appears that his friend Mr. Robert Dodsley gave him one hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual reservation of the right of one edition.
On occasion of his play being brought upon the stage, Johnson had a fancy that as a dramatic author his dress should be more gay than he ordinarily wore; he therefore appeared behind the scenes, and even in one of the side boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace and a gold laced hat. His necessary attendance while his play was in rehearsal, and during its performance, brought him acquainted with many of the performers of both sexes, which produced a more favourable opinion of their profession than he had harshly expressed in his "Life of Savage." With some of them he kept up an acquaintance as long as he and they lived, and was ever ready to show them acts of kindness. He for a considerable time used to visit the green room, and seemed to take delight in dissipating his gloom by mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the motley circle then to be found there. But at last—as Mr. David Hume related to me from Mr. Garrick—he denied himself this amusement from considerations of rigid virtue.
V.—"The Rambler" and New Acquaintance
In 1750 Johnson came forth in the character for which he was eminently qualified, a majestic teacher of moral and religious wisdom. The vehicle he chose was that of a periodical paper, which he knew had, upon former occasions—those of the "Tattler," "Spectator," and "Guardian"—been employed with great success.
The first paper of "The Rambler" was published on Tuesday, March 20, 1750, and its author was enabled to continue it without interruption, every Tuesday and Friday, till Saturday, March 17, 1752, on which day it closed. During all this time he received assistance on four occasions only.
Posterity will be astonished when they are told, upon the authority of Johnson himself, that many of these discourses, which we should suppose had been laboured with all the slow attention of literary leisure, were written in haste as the moments pressed, without even being read over by him before they were printed. Such was his peculiar promptitude of mind. He was wont to say, "A man may write at any time if he will set himself doggedly to it."
Though Johnson's circumstances were at this time—1751—far from being easy, his humane and charitable disposition was constantly exerting itself. Mrs. Anna Williams, daughter of a very ingenious Welsh physician, and a woman of more than ordinary talents in literature, having come to London in hopes of being cured of a cataract in both her eyes, which afterwards ended in total blindness, was kindly received as a constant visitor at his house while Mrs. Johnson lived; and after her death, having come under his roof in order to have an operation upon her eyes performed with more comfort to her than in lodgings, she had an apartment from him until the rest of her life at all times when he had a house.
In 1752 he wrote the last papers of "The Rambler," but he was now mainly occupied with his "Dictionary." This year, soon after closing his periodical paper, he suffered a loss which affected him with the deepest distress. For on March 17 his wife died. That his sufferings upon her death were severe, beyond what are commonly endured, I have no doubt, from the information of many who were then about him.
The circle of Johnson's friends, indeed, at this time was extensive and various, far beyond what has been generally imagined. To trace his acquaintance with each particular person were unprofitable. But exceptions are to be made, one of which must be a friend so eminent as Sir Joshua Reynolds, with whom he maintained an uninterrupted intimacy to the last hour of his life.
When Johnson lived in Castle Street, Cavendish Square, he used frequently to visit two ladies who lived opposite to him—Miss Cotterells, daughters of Admiral Cotterell. Reynolds used also to visit there, and thus they met. Mr. Reynolds had, from the first reading of his "Life of Savage," conceived a very high admiration of Johnson's powers of writing. His conversation no less delighted him, and he cultivated his acquaintance with the laudable zeal of one who was ambitious of general improvement.
His acquaintance with Bennet Langton, Esq., of Langton, in Lincolnshire, another much valued friend, commenced soon after the conclusion of the "Rambler," which that gentleman, then a youth, had read with so much admiration that he came to London chiefly with the view of endeavouring to be introduced to its author. By a fortunate chance he happened to take lodgings in a house where Mr. Levett frequently visited, who readily obtained Johnson's permission to bring Mr. Langton to him; as indeed, Johnson, during the whole course of his life, had no shyness, real or affected, but was easy of access to all who were properly recommended, and even wished to see numbers at his levee, as his morning circle of company might, with strict propriety, be called, for he received his friends when he got up from bed, which rarely happened before noon.
VI.—Lord Chesterfield and the "Dictionary"
In 1753 and 1754 Johnson relieved the drudgery of his "Dictionary" by taking an active part in the composition of "The Adventurer," a new periodical paper which his friends Dr. Hawkesworth and Dr. Bathurst had commenced.
Towards the end of the latter year, when the "Dictionary" was on the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, ever since the plan of this great work had been addressed to him, had treated its author with cold indifference, attempted to conciliate him by writing to papers in "The World" in recommendation of the undertaking. This courtly device failed of its effect, and Johnson, indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine that he could be the dupe of such an artifice, wrote him that famous letter, dated February 7, 1755, which I have already given to the public. I will quote one paragraph.
"Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron which Providence has enabled me to do for myself."
Thinking it desirable that the two letters intimating possession of the master's degree should, for the credit both of Oxford and of Johnson, appear after his name on the title page of his "Dictionary," his friends obtained for him from his university this mark of distinction by diploma dated February 20, 1755; and the "Dictionary" was published on April 15 in two volumes folio.
It won him much honour at home and abroad; the Academy of Florence sent him their "Vocabulario," and the French Academy their "Dictionnaire." But it had not set him above the necessity of "making provision for the day that was passing over him," for he had spent during the progress of the work all the money which it had brought him.
He was compelled, therefore, to contribute to the monthly periodicals, and during 1756 he wrote a few essays for "The Universal Visitor," and superintended and contributed largely to another publication entitled "The Literary Magazine, or Universal Review." Among the articles he wrote for the magazine was a review of Mr. Jonas Hanway's "Essay on Tea," to which the author made an angry answer. Johnson, after a full and deliberate pause, made a reply to it, the only instance, I believe, in the whole course of his life, when he condescended to oppose anything that was written against him.
His defence of tea was indeed made con amore. I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the infusion of that fragrant leaf than Johnson. The quantities which he drank of it at all hours were so great that his nerves must have been uncommonly strong not to have been extremely relaxed by such an intemperate use of it.
This year Johnson resumed the scheme, first proposed eleven years previously, of giving an edition of Shakespeare with notes. He issued proposals of considerable length, but his indolence prevented him from pursuing the undertaking, and nine years more elapsed before it saw the light.
On April 15, 1758, he began a new periodical paper entitled "The Idler," which came out every Saturday in a weekly newspaper called "The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette." These essays were continued till April 5, 1760, and of the total of one hundred and three, twelve were contributed by his friends, including Reynolds, Langton, and Thomas Warton. "The Idler" has less body and more spirit than "The Rambler," and has more variety of real life, and greater facility of language. It was often written as hastily as it predecessor.
In 1759, in the month of January, Johnson's mother died, at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him, for his reverential affection for her was not abated by years. Soon after, he wrote his "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia," in order that with the profits he might defray the expenses of her funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that he composed it in the evenings of one week, and sent it to the press in portions, as it was written. Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley purchased it for L100, but afterwards paid him L25 more when it came to a second edition. Though Johnson had written nothing else this admirable performance would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature. None of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe; for it has been translated into most, if not all, of the modern languages. Voltaire's "Candide," written to refute the system of optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's "Rasselas."
Early in 1762, having been represented to the king as a very learned and good person, without any certain provision, his majesty was pleased to grant him a pension of L300 a year. The prime movers in suggesting that Johnson ought to have a pension were Mr. Thomas Sheridan and Mr. Murphy. Having, in his "Dictionary," defined pension as "generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country," Johnson at first doubted the propriety of his accepting this mark of the royal favour. But Sir Joshua having given his opinion that there could be no objection to his receiving from the king a reward for literary merit, and Lord Bute having told him expressly, "It is not given you for anything you are to do, but for what you have done," his scruples about accepting it were soon removed.
VII.—Boswell's First Meeting with Johnson
Johnson, who thought slightingly of Sheridan's art, and perhaps resented that a player should be rewarded in the same manner with him, upon hearing that a pension of L200 a year had been given to Sheridan, exclaimed, "What! Have they given him a pension? Then it's time for me to give up mine."
A man who disliked Johnson repeated his sarcasm to Mr. Sheridan, who could never forgive this hasty, contemptuous expression, and ever after positively declined Johnson's repeated offers of reconciliation.
It was Mr. Thomas Davies, the actor, turned bookseller, who introduced me to Johnson. On Monday, May 16, 1763. I was sitting in Mr. Davies's back parlour at 8 Russell Street, Covent Garden, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs. Davies, when Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated at my long-wished-for introduction to the sage, and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, "Don't tell where I come from——" "From Scotland!" cried Davies roguishly. "Mr. Johnson," said I, "I do, indeed, come from Scotland, but I cannot help it"—meaning this as light pleasantry to reconciliate him. But with that quickness of wit for which he was so remarkable he seized the expression "come from Scotland," and as if I had said that I had come away from it, or left it, remarked, "That, sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help." This stroke, and another check which I subsequently received, stunned me a good deal; but eight days later I boldly repaired to his chambers on the first floor of No. 1, Inner Temple Lane, and he received me very courteously. His morning dress was sufficiently uncouth; his brown suit of clothes looked very rusty. He had on a little, old, shrivelled, unpowdered wig, which was too small for his head; his shirt-neck and knees of his breeches were loose; his black worsted stockings ill-drawn up; and he had a pair of unbuckled shoes by way of slippers. But all these slovenly particularities were forgotten the moment that he began to talk.
In February of the following year was founded that club which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral became distinguished by the title of "The Literary Club." Sir Joshua Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it, to which Johnson acceded, and the original members were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent (Mr. Burke's father-in-law), Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head in Gerard Street, Soho, one evening in every week at seven, and generally continued their conversation till a very late hour. After about ten years, instead of supping weekly, it was resolved to dine together once a fortnight during the meeting of parliament, and, their original tavern having been converted into a private house, they moved first to Prince's in Sackville Street, then to Le Telier's in Dover Street, and now meet at Parsloe's, St. James's Street. Between the time of its formation and the time at which the second edition of this work is passing through the press (June 1792), its numbers have been raised to thirty-five, and the following persons have belonged to it: Mr. Dunning (afterwards Lord Ashburton), Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shepley (Bishop of St. Asaph), Mr. Thomas Warton, Mr. Joseph Warton, Dr. Adam Smith, Lord Charlemont, Sir Robert Chambers, Dr. Percy (Bishop of Dromore), Dr. Barnard (Bishop of Killaloe), Mr. Charles James Fox, Mr. Gibbon, Mr. R.B. Sheridan, Mr. Colman, Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, Dr. Burney, and the writer of this account.
This year Johnson was receiving his "Shakespeare," but he published a review of Grainger's "Sugar Cane: A Poem" in the "London Chronicle," and also wrote in "The Critical Review" an account of Goldsmith's excellent poem, "The Traveller." In July 1765, Trinity College, Dublin, surprised him with a spontaneous compliment of the highest academical honours, by creating him Doctor of Laws, and in October he at length gave to the world his edition of Shakespeare. This year was also distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, an eminent brewer, who was member for Southwark. The Thrales were so much pleased with him that his invitations to their house were more and more frequent, till at last he became one of the family, and an apartment was appropriated to him, both in their house in Southwark and at Streatham.
VIII.—Tours in the Hebrides and in Wales
His friend, the Rev. Dr. Maxwell, speaks as follows on Johnson's general mode of life: "About twelve o'clock I commonly visited him, and frequently found him in bed, or declaiming over his tea, which he drank very plentifully. He generally had a levee of morning visitors, chiefly men of letters—Hawkesworth, Goldsmith, Murphy, Langton, Stevens, Beauclerk, etc., etc., and sometimes learned ladies, particularly I remember a French lady of wit and fashion doing him the honour of a visit. He seemed to me to be considered as a kind of public oracle, whom everybody thought they had a right to visit and to consult; and doubtless they were well rewarded. I never could discover how he found time for his compositions. He declaimed all the morning, then went to dinner at a tavern, where he commonly stayed late, and then drank his tea at some friend's house, over which he loitered a great while, but seldom took supper. I fancy he must have read and wrote chiefly in the night, for I can scarcely recollect that he ever refused going with me to a tavern, and he often went to Ranelagh, which he deemed a place of innocent recreation."