Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

early-imbibed opinions must have clung to a soul of this Affection. Those evil-famed Prejudices of his, that Jacobitism, Church-of-Englandism, hatred of the Scotch, belief in Witches, and suchlike, what were they but the ordinary beliefs of well-doing, wellmeaning provincial Englishmen in that day ? First gathered by his Father's hearth, round the kind country fires' of native Staffordshire, they grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength; they were hallowed by fondest sacred recollections; to part with them was parting with his heart's blood. If the man who has no strength of Affection, strength of Belief, have no strength of Prejudice, let him thank Heaven for it, but to himself take small thanks.

Melancholy it was, indeed, that the noble Johnson could not work himself loose from these adhesions; that he could only purify them, and wear them with some nobleness. Yet let us understand how they grew out from the very centre of his being: nay, moreover, how they came to cohere in him with what formed the business and worth of his Life, the sum of his whole Spiritual Endeavor. For it is on the same ground that he became throughout an Edifier and Repairer, not, as the others of his make were, a Pullerdown; that in an age of universal Scepticism, England was still to produce its Believer. Mark too his candor even here; while a Dr. Adams, with placid surprise, asks, "Have we not evidence enough of the soul's immortality ?” Johnson answers, “I wish for more."

But the truth is, in Prejudice; as in all things, Johnson was the product of England; one of those good yeomen whose limbs were made in England: alas, the last of such Invincibles, their day being now done! His culture is wholly English; that not of a Thinker but of a “Scholar:' his interests are wholly English; he sees and knows nothing but England; he is the John Bull of Spiritual Europe: let him live, love him, as he was and could not but be!

[ocr errors]

APPENDIX B

JOHNSON AS A MORALIST

Extracts from Leslie Stephen's HISTORY OF ENGLISH

ThoughT IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, Chapter
XII.

Johnson escaped from the hell of Swift's passion by virtue of that pathetic tenderness of nature which lay beneath his rugged outside. If Swift excites a strange mixture of repulsion and pity, no one can know Johnson without loving him. And what was Johnson's special message to the world ? He has given it most completely in Rasselas. . . . A disciple of Johnson learns the futility of enquiring into the ultimate

purposes of the Creator; but he would acquiesce in the accepted creed. It is as good as any other, considered as a philosophy, and much better considered as supplying motives for the conduct of life. Johnson's fame amongst his contemporaries was

[ocr errors]

that of a great moralist; and the name represents what was most significant in his teaching.

He was as good a moralist as a man can be who regards the ultimate foundations of morality as placed beyond the reach of speculation. “We know we are free, and there's an end on’t,” is his answer to the great metaphysical difficulty. He “refutes" Berkeley by kicking a stone. He thinks that Hume is a mere trifler, who has taken to “milking the bull” by way of variety. He laughs effectually at Soame Jenyns's explanation of the origin of evil; but leaves the question as practically insoluble, without troubling himself as to why it is insoluble, or what consequences may follow from its insolubility. Speculation, in short, though he passed for a philosopher, was simply abhorrent to him. He passes by on the other side, and leaves such puzzles for triflers. He has made up his mind once for all that religion is wanted, and that the best plan is to accept the established creed. And thus we have the apparent paradox that, whilst no man sets a higher value upon truthfulness in all the ordinary affairs of life than Johnson, no man could care less for the foundations of speculative truth. His gaze was not directed to that side. Judging in all cases rather by intuition than by logical processes,

he takes for granted the religious theories which fall in sufficiently with his moral convictions. To all speculation which may tend to loosen the fixity of the social order he is deaf or contemptuously averse. The old insidious Deism seems to him to be mere

rash; and he would cure the openly aggressive Deism of Rousseau by sending its author to the plantations. Indifference to speculation generates a hearty contempt for all theories. He has too firm a grasp of facts to care for the dreams of fanciful Utopians; his emotions are too massive and rigid to be easily excited by enthusiasts. He ridicules the prevailing cry against corruption. The world is bad enough, in all conscience, but it will do no good to exaggerate or to whine. He has no sympathy with believers in the speedy advent of a millennium. The evils under which creation groans have their causes in a region far beyond the powers of constitution-mongers and political agitators.

“How small of all that human hearts endure

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure !"

These words sum up his political theory. Subordination is the first necessity of man, whether in politics or religion. To what particular form of creed or con

« ПредишнаНапред »