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In this compilation are contained several authentic iece dotes of dislinguished Literary Characters; rules fo the conduct of life in the most serious and delicate conjunci "es; and those found remarks on works of genius and learning, which in a peculiar manner distinguished the beloved friend of Mr. BOSWELL.

It may

be proper to add, that this selection was undertaken in the lifetime of Mr. Boswell, and with his cordial approbation : had that gentleman lived, it might probably have been rendered more acceptable to the Reader.

March 1798.




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OHNSON'S usual phrase for conversation

was talk ; yet he made a distinction ; for having once dined at a friend's house with what he termed “ a very pretty company,” and being asked if there was good conversation, he answered, “ No, Sir; we had talk enough, but no conversation ; there was nothing difcussed."

He had a great aversion to gesticulation in company, and calledence to a gentleman who offended him in that point, “ Don't attitudenise." When another gentleman thought he was giving additional force to what he uttered, by expressive movements of his hands, Johnson fairly seized them, and held them down.

He also disapproved of introducing scripture phrases into secular discourse.

Mr. Boswell having on some occasion observed, that he thought it right to tell one man




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of a handsome thing which had been said of him by another, as tending to increase benevolence, Johnson answered, “Undoubtedly it is right, Sir.”

He thus defined the difference between physical and moral truth : “ Physical truth is, when you tell a thing as it actually is. Moral truth is, when

you tell a thing sincerely and precisely as it appears to you. I say such a one walked across the street; if he really did so, I told a physical truth. If I thought so, though I should have been mistaken, I told a moral truth.”

“ A man," he said, “ should be careful never to tell tales of himself to his own disadvantage. People may be amused and laugh at the time; but they will be remembered, and brought out against him upon some subsequent occasion.”

At another time he observed, “ A man cannot with propriety speak of himself, except he relates simple facts; as, ' I was at Richmond:' or what depends on mensuration; as, * I am fix ,feet high.' He is sure he has been at Richmond; he is sure he is six feet high : but he cannot be sure he is wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censuro of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order


to shew how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of falsehood.” Mr. Boswell however remarks, that this may sometimes proceed from a man's strong consciousness of his faults being observed. He knows that others would throw him down, and therefore he had better lie down softly of his own accord.

Johnson used also to say, that if a man talked of his misfortunes, we might depend upon it there was something in them not difagreeable to him—for where there was nothing but pure misery, there never was any recourse to the mention of it.

Talking of an acquaintance, whose narratives, which abounded in curious and interesting topics, were unhappily found to be very fabulous, Mr. B. mentioned Lord Mansfield's having said, “ Suppose we believe one balf of what he tells."-" Aye,” said Johnson, " but we don't know which half to believe. By his lying we lose not only our reverence for him, but all comfort in his conversation."

Speaking of conversation, he said, “There must, in the first place, be knowledge, and there inust be materials; in the second place, there must be a command of words; in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not com


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monly seen in ; and in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures ; this last is an effential requisite ; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation. Now I want it: I throw up the game upon losing a trick."

Of Charles Fox Johnson said, “ Fox never talks in private company; not from any

determination not to talk, but because he has not the firft motion. A man who is ufed to the applause of the House of Commons has no wish for that of a private company. A man accustomed to throw for a thousand pounds, if fet down to throw for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebullition of his mind; he does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.”

After musing for some time one day, Johnson said, “ I wonder how I should have any enemies; for I do harm to nobody."-BOSWELL, “ In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to

“ I wondered (says Mr. B.) to hear him talk thus of himself, and said, . I don't know, Sir, how this may be; but I am sure you beat other people's cards out of their hands.' I doubt whether he heard this remark. While he went on talking triumphantly, I was fixed in admiration, and said to Mrs. Thrale, io, for short-hand to take this down!'- You'll carry it all in your head (said she); a long head is as good as short-hand.”


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