Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

with cheating into the bargain. There is as much fornication and adultery amongst farmers as amongst noblemen."-B. “ The notion of the world, Sir, however, is, that the morals of women of quality are worse than those in lower stations." - J. “ Yes, Sir; the licentiousness of one woman of quality makes more noise than that of a number of women in lower stations. Then, Sir, you are to consider the malignity of women in the city against women of quality, which will make them believe any thing of them, such as that they call their coachmen to their bed. No, Sir; so far as I have observed, the higher in rank, the richer ladies are, they are the better instructed, and the more virtuous."

INEQUALITIES OF RANK.

Johnson insisted much on the duty of maintaining subordination of rank." Sir (said he), I would no more deprive a nobleman of his respect, than of his money. I consider myself as acting a part in the great system of society, and I do to others as I would have them do to me. I would behave to a nobleman as I should expect he would behave to me, were I a nobleman and he Sam. Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay in this town, a great republican. One day, when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us. I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves. They would all have some people under them; why not then have some people above them?” A certain author was mentioned, who disgusted by his forwardness, and by shewing no deference to noblemen into whose company he was admitted. Johnson said, “Suppose a shoemaker should claim an equality with him, as he does with a lord, how would he stare !

Why, Sir, do you stare? (says the shoemaker). I do great service to society. 'Tis true, I am paid for doing it; but so are you, Sir: and I am sorry to say it, better paid than I am, for doing something not so necessary; for mankind could do better without your books, than without my shoes.' Thus there would be a perpetual struggle for precedence, were there no fixed invariable rules for

B.

the distinction of rank, which creates no jealousy, as it is allowed to be accidental."

On another occasion (says Mr. B.) we had talked of old families, and the respect due to them. Johnson said, “Sir, you have a right to that kind of respect, and are arguing for yourself. I am for supporting the principle, and am disinterested in doing it, as I have no such right.”

Why, Sir, it is one more incitement to a man to do well.”—J. “ Yes, Sir, and it is a matter of opinion very necessary to keep society together. What is it but opinion by which we have a respect for authority, that prevents us, who are the rabble, from rising up, and pulling down

you

who are gentlemen from your places, and saying,' We will be gentlemen in our turn! Now, Sir, that respect for authority is much more easily granted to a man whose father has had it, than to an upstart; and so society is more easily supported.”-B. Perhaps, Sir, it might be done by the respect belonging to office, as among the Romans, where the dress, the toga, inspired reverence.”--J.“ Why, we know very little about the Romans. But, surely, it is much easier to respect a man who has always had respect, than to respect a man who we know was last year no better than ourselves, and will be no better next year. In republics there is not a respect for authority, but a fear of power,"-B. “ At present,

Sir, I think riches seem to gain most respect.”— J. “ No, Sir, riches do not gain hearty respect; they only procure external attention. A very rich man, from low beginnings, may buy his election in a borough; but, cæteris paribus, a man of family will be preferred. People will prefer a man for whose father their fathers have voted, though they should get no more money, or even less. This shews that the respect for family is not merely fanciful, but has an actual operation. If gentlemen of family would allow the rich upstarts to spend their money profusely, which they are ready enough to do, and not vie with them in expence, the upstarts would soon be at an end, and the gentlemen would remain: but if the gentlemen will vie in expence with the upstarts, which is very foolish, they must be ruined.”

Johnson, indeed, though of no high extraction himself, had much respect for birth and family, especially among ladies. 66 Adventitious accomplishments (said he) may be possessed by all ranks; but one may easily distinguish the born gentlewoman,"

One evening at Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Chambers's in the temple, he talked with a noble enthusiasm of keeping up the representation of respectable families. His zeal on this subject was a circumstance in his character exceedingly remarkable, when it is considered that he had no pretensions to blood. He himself once said, “I have great merit in being zealous for subordination and the honours of birth; for I can hardly tell who was my grandfather.” He maintained the dignity and propriety of male succession, in opposition to the opinion of one who had that day employed Mr. Chambers to draw his will, devising his estate to his three sisters, in preference to a remote heir male. Johnson called them' three dowdies,' and said, with as high a spirit as the boldest Baron in the most perfect days of the feudal system, “ An ancient estate should always go to males. It is mighty foolish to let a stranger have it because he marries your daughter, and takes your name.

As for an estate newly acquired by trade, you may give it, if you will, to the dog Towser, and let him keep his own name.'

“ Providence (he observed at another time) has wisely ordered that the more numerous men are, the more difficult it is for them to agree in any thing; and so they are governed. There is no doubt, that if the poor should reason, - We'll be the poor no longer, we'll make the rich take their turn, they could easily do it, were it not that they can't agree.

So the common soldiers, though so much more numerous than their officers, are governed by them for the same reason."

Some one told him, that Mrs. Macaulay wonder

« ПредишнаНапред »