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CAVE'S GHOST STORY.
dependent. JOHNSON. “I agree with Mr. Boswell, that there must be high satisfaction in being a feudal lord; but we are to consider, that we ought not to wish to have a number of men unhappy for the satisfaction of one.” I maintained that numbers, namely, the vassals or followers, were not unhappy; for that there was a reciprocal satisfaction between the lord and them, he being kind in his authority over them, they being respectful and faithful to him.
On Thursday, April 9, I called on him to beg he would go and dine with me at the Mitre tavern. He had resolved not to dine at all this day, I know not for what reason; and I was so unwilling to be deprived of his company, that I was content to submit to suffer a want, which was at first somewhat painful, but he soon made me forget it: and a man is always pleased with himself, when he finds his intellectual inclinations predominate.
He observed that to reason philosophically on the nature of prayer was very unprofitable.
Talking of ghosts, he said, he knew one friend, who was an honest man and a sensible man, who told him he had seen a ghost; old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer at St. John's Gate. He said, Mr. Cave did not like talk of it, and seemed to be in great horror whenever it was mentioned. BOSWELL. “Pray, Sir, what did he say was the appearance ?” Johnson. Why, Sir, something of a shadowy being."
I mentioned witches, and asked him what they properly meant. JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, they properly mean those who make use of the aid of evil spirits." BOSWELL. “There is no doubt, Sir, a general report and belief of their having existed.” JOHNSON. “You have not only the general report and belief, but you have many voluntary solemn confessions." He did not affirm anything positively upon a subject which it is the fashion of the times to laugh at as a matter of absurd credulity. He only seemed willing, as a candid inquirer after truth, however strange and inexplicable, to show the he understood what might be urged for it.'
1 See this curious question treated by him with most acute ability, post, Aug.
Dinner at General Oglethorpe's-Armorial Bearings-Duelling-Prince Eugene-Siege
of Belgrade-Friendships - Goldsmith's Natural History-Story of PrendergastExpulsion of Methodists from Oxford—“In Vino Veritas"-Education of the People-Sense of Touch in the Blind-Theory of Sounds-Taste in the Arts-Francis Osborne's Works-Country Gentleman-Long Stories-Beattie and RobertsonAdvice to Authors-Climate-Walpole and Pitt - Vicious Intromission-Beattie's Essay-Visit to Litchfield and Ashbourne.
On Friday, April 10, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, where we found Dr. Goldsmith.
Armorial bearings having been mentioned, Johnson said they were as ancient as the siege of Thebes, which he proved by a passage in one of the tragedies of Euripides.
I started the question, whether duelling was consistent with moral duty. The brave old general fired at this, and said, with a lofty air, "Undoubtedly a man has a right to defend his honor." GOLDSMITH (turning to me). “I ask you first, Sir, what would you do if you were affronted ?" I answered, I should think it necessary to fight. “Wby, then” replied Goldsmith, “that solves the question." JOHNSON. “No, Sir, it does not solve the question. It does not follow, that what a man would do is therefore right. I said, I wished to have it settled, whether duelling was contrary to the laws of Christianity. Johnson immediately entered on the subject, and treated it in a masterly manner; and, so far as I have been able to recollect, his thoughts were these:—“Sir, as men become in a high degree refined, various causes of offence arise ; which are considered to be of such importance, that life must be staked to atone for them, though in reality they are not so. A body that has received a very fine polish may be easily hurt. Before men arrive at this artificial refinement, if one tells his neighbor-he lies, his neighbour tells him—he lies; if one gives his neighbour a blow, his neighbour gives him a blow; but in a state of highly polished society, an affront is held to be a serious injury. It must, therefore, be resented, or rather a duel
must be fought upon it; as men have agreed 10 banish from society one who puts up with an affront without fighting a duel. Now, Sir, it is never unlawful to fight in self-defence. He, then, who fights a duel, does not fight from passion against his antagonist, but out of self-defence; to avert the stigma of the world, and to prevent himself from being driven out of society. I could wish there was not that superfluity of refinement; but while such notions prevail, no doubt a man may lawfully fight a duel."
“Let it be remembered, that this justification is applicable only to the person who receives an affront. All mankind must condemn the aggressor.”
The General told us, that, when he was a very young man, I think only fifteen, serving under Prince Eugene of Savoy, he was sitting in a company at table with a Prince of Wirtemberg. The prince took up a glass of wine, and by a fillip, made some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. Here was a nice dilemma. To have challenged him instantly, might have fixed a quarrelsome character upon the young soldier : to have taken no notice of it, might have been considered as cowardice. Oglethorpe, therefore, keeping his eye upon the prince, and smiling all the time, as if he took what his highness had done in jest, said "Mon Prince, -" (I forget the French words he used; the purport however was)," that's a good joke ; but we do it much better in England ;” and threw a whole glass of wine in the prince's face. An old general, who sat by, said, “Il a bien fait, mon prince, vous l'avez commence :" and thus all ended in good humour.
Dr. Johnson said, “Pray, General, give us an account of the siege of Belgrade." Upon which the General, pouring a little wine upon the table, described everything with a wet finger : “Here we were ; here were the Turks,” &c., &c. Johnson listened with the closest attention.
A question was started, how far people who disagree in a capital point can live in friendship together. Johnson said they might. Goldsruith said they could not, as they had not the idem velle at que idem nolle—the same likings and the same
aversions. JOHNson. “Why, Sir, you must shun the subject as to which you disagree. For instance, I can live very well with Burke : I love his knowledge, his genius, his' diffusion, and affluence of conversation ; but I would not talk to him of the Rockingham party.”! GOLDSMITH. “But Sir, when people live together who have something as to which they disagree, and which they want to shun, they will be in the situation mentioned in the story of Bluebeard : ' You may look into all the chambers but one.' But we should have the greatest inclination to look into that chamber, to talk of that subject.” Johnson (with a loud voice). "Sir, I am not saying that you could live in friendship with a man from whom you differ as to some point; I am only saying that I could do it. You put me in mind of Sappho in Ovid."
Goldsmith told us, that he was now busy in writing a Natural History ;' and, that he might have full leisure for it, be had taken lodgings at a farmer's house, near to the six milestone, on the Edgeware-road, and had carried down his books in two returned post-chaises. He said, he believed the farmer's family thought him an odd character, similar to that in which the Spectator appeared to his landlady and her children: he was The Gentleman. Mr. Mickle, the translator of The Lusiad," and I, went to visit him at this place a few days afterwards. He was not at home; but having a curiosity to see his apartment, we went in, and found curious scraps of descriptions of animals, scrawled upon the wall with a blacklead pencil.
The subject of ghosts being introduced, Johnson repeated what he had told me of a friend of his, ' an honest man, and a man of sense, having asserted to him that he had seen an apparation. Goldsmith told us, he was assured by his brother, the Reverend Mr. Goldsmith, that he also had seen one.
Gen. eral Oglethorpe told us, that Prendergast, an officer in the Duke of Marlborough's army, had mentioned to many of his
10f which Mr. Burke was a leading member.-C. 2 Published in 1774, in eight volumes 8vo., under the title of a “History of the Earth and of Animated Nature."-C.
3 Mr. Cave.
STORY OF PRENDERGAST.
friends, that he should die on a particular day; that upon that day a battle took place with the French ; that after it was over, and Prendergast was still alive, his brother officers, while they were yet in the field, jestingly asked him, where was his prophecy now? Prendergast gravely answered, *I shall die, notwithstanding what you see.” Soon afterwards, , there came a shot from a French battery, to which the orders for a cessation of arms had not yet reached, and he was killed upon the spot. Colonel Cecil, who took possesion of his effects, found in his pocket-book the following solemn entry :
[Here the date.] “Dreamt--or- - Sir John Friend meets me :” (here the very day on which he was killed mentioned.)
Prendergast had been connected with Sir John Friend, who was executed for high treason. General Oglethorpe said, he was with Colonel Cecil, when Pope came and inquired into the truth of this story, which made a great noise at the time, and was then confirmed by the colonel.
On Saturday, April 11, he appointed me to come to him in the evening, when he should be at leisure to give me some assistance for the defence of Hastie, the schoolmaster of Campbelltown, for whom I was to appear in the House of Lords. When I came, I found him unwilling to exert himself. I pressed him to write down his thoughts upon the subject. He said, “There's no occasion for my writing : I'll talk to you." He was, however, at last prevailed on to dictate to me, while I wrote as follows:
" The charge is, that he has used immoderate and cruel correction. Correction in itself is not cruel ; children, being not reasonable, can be governed only by fear. To impress this fear is, therefore, one of the first duties of those who have the care of children. It is the duty of a parent, and has never been thought inconsistent with pareutal tenderness. It is the duty of a master, who is in his highest exaltation when he is loco parentis. Yet, as good things become evil by excess, correction, by being immoderate, may become cruel. But when is correction immoderate ? When it is more frequent or more severe than is required ad monendum et docendum, for reformation and instruction. No
i Here was a blank, which may be filled up thus:-" was told by an apparition.”--the writer being probably uncertain whether he was asleep or awake, when his mind was impressed with the solemn presentiment with which the fact afterwards happened so wonderfully to correspond.-B.