The World's Greatest Books, Vol IX.
Edited by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton

Part 1 out of 6

Produced by John Hagerson, Kevin Handy and PG Distributed Proofreaders



ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge

J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia



* * * * *

Table of Contents


Fragments of an Intimate Diary


Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Life of Sir Isaac Newton

Grace Abounding


Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell
Life of Schiller


Memoirs from Beyond the Grave

Letters to His Son


Biographia Literaria


Confessions of an English Opium-Eater



Life of Goldsmith



The Life of Charlotte Bronte


Letters to Zelter
Poetry and Truth
Conversations with Eckermann


Memoirs of the Count De Grammont

Our Old Home

A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end
of Volume XX.

* * * * *



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

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

_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

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

_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.

* * * * *


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

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

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."

* * * * *



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

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

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

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.

* * * * *


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,

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

_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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

In 1773 Johnson's only publication was an edition of his folio
"Dictionary," with additions and corrections, and the preface to his old
amanuensis, Machean's "Dictionary of Ancient Geography." His
"Shakespeare," indeed, was republished this year by George Stevens,
Esq., a gentleman of acute discernment and elegant taste.

On April 23, 1773, I was nominated by Johnson for membership of the
Literary Club, and a week later I was elected to the society. There I
saw for the first time Mr. Edmund Burke, whose splendid talents had made
me ardently wish for his acquaintance.

This same year Johnson made, in my company, his visit to Scotland, which
lasted from August 14, on which day he arrived, till November 22, when
he set out on his return to London; and I believe one hundred days were
never passed by any men in a more vigorous exertion. His various
adventures, and the force and vivacity of his mind, as exercised during
this peregrination, upon innumerable topics, have been faithfully, and
to the best of my ability, displayed in my "Journal of a Tour to the

On his return to London his humane, forgiving dispositions were put to a
pretty strong test by a liberty which Mr. Thomas Davies had taken, which
was to publish two volumes, entitled "Miscellaneous and Fugitive
Pieces," which he advertised in the newspapers, "By the Author of the
Rambler." In some of these Johnson had no concern whatever. He was at
first very angry, but, upon consideration of his poor friend's narrow
circumstances, and that he meant no harm, he soon relented.

Dr. Goldsmith died on April 4 of the following year, a year in which I
was unable to pay my usual spring visit to London, and in which Johnson
made a long autumn tour in Wales with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. In response
to some inquiries of mine about poor Goldsmith, he wrote: "Of poor, dear
Goldsmith there is little to be told more than the papers have made
public. He died of a fever, made, I am afraid, more violent by
uneasiness of mind. His debts began to be heavy, and all his resources
were exhausted. Sir Joshua is of the opinion that he owed not less than
L2,000. Was ever poet so trusted before?"

This year, too, my great friend again came out as a politician, for
parliament having been dissolved in September, and Mr. Thrale, who was a
steady supporter of government, having again to encounter the storm of a
contested election in Southwark, Johnson published a short political
pamphlet, entitled "The Patriot," addressed to the electors of Great
Britain. It was written with energetic vivacity; and except those
passages in which it endeavours to vindicate the glaring outrage of the
House of Commons in the case of the Middlesex election and to justify
the attempt to reduce our fellow-subjects in America to unconditional
submission, it contained an admirable display of the properties of a
real patriot, in the original and genuine sense.

_IX.--Johnson's Physical Courage and Fear of Death_

The "Rambler's" own account of our tour in the Hebrides was published in
1775 under the title of "A journey to the Western Islands of Scotland,"
and soon involved its author, who had expressed his disbelief in the
authenticity of Ossian's poems, in a controversy with Mr. Macpherson.
Johnson called for the production of the old manuscripts from which Mr.
Macpherson said that he had copied the poems. He wrote to me: "I am
surprised that, knowing as you do the disposition of your countrymen to
tell lies in favour of each other, you can be at all affected by any
reports that circulate among them." And when Mr. Macpherson, exasperated
by this scepticism, replied in words that are generally said to have
been of a nature very different from the language of literary contest,
Johnson answered him in a letter that opened: "I received your foolish
and impudent letter. Any violence offered me I shall do my best to
repel, and what I cannot do for myself the law shall do for me. I hope I
shall never be deterred from detecting what I think a cheat by the
menaces of a ruffian."

Mr. Macpherson knew little the character of Dr. Johnson if he supposed
that he could be easily intimidated, for no man was ever more remarkable
for personal courage. He had, indeed, an awful dread of death, or,
rather, "of something after death"; and he once said to me, "The fear of
death is so much natural to man that the whole of life is but keeping
away the thoughts of it," and confessed that "he had never had a moment
in which death was not terrible to him." But his fear was from
reflection, his courage natural. Many instances of his resolution may be
mentioned. One day, at Mr. Beauclerk's house in the country, when two
large dogs were fighting, he went up to them and beat them till they

At another time, when Foote threatened to _take him off_ on the stage,
he sent out for an extra large oak stick; and this mere threat, repeated
by Davies to Foote, effectually checked the wantonness of the mimic. On
yet another occasion, in the playhouse at Lichfield, as Mr. Garrick
informed me, Johnson having for a moment quitted a chair which was
placed for him between the side scenes, a gentleman took possession of
it, and when Johnson on his return civilly demanded his seat, rudely
refused to give it up; upon which Johnson laid hold of it, and tossed
him and the chair into the pit.

My revered friend had long before indulged most unfavourable sentiments
of our fellow-subjects in America. As early as 1769 he had said to them:
"Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be grateful for anything
we allow them short of hanging." He had recently published, at the
desire of those in power, a pamphlet entitled "Taxation no Tyranny; an
Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress." Of this
performance I avoided to talk with him, having formed a clear and
settled opinion against the doctrine of its title.

In the autumn Dr. Johnson went to Ashbourne to France with Mr. and Mrs.
Thrale and Mr. Baretti, which lasted about two months. But he did not
get into any higher acquaintance; and Foote, who was at Paris at the
time with him, used to give a description of my friend while there and
of French astonishment at his figure, manner, and dress, which was
abundantly ludicrous. He was now a Doctor of Laws of Oxford, his
university having conferred that degree on him by diploma in the spring.

_X.--Johnson's "Seraglio"_

A circumstance which could not fail to be very pleasing to Johnson
occurred in 1777. The tragedy of "Sir Thomas Overbury," written by his
early companion in London, Richard Savage, was brought out, with
alterations, at Covent Garden Theatre, on February 1; and the prologue
to it, written by Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, introduced an elegant
compliment to Johnson on his "Dictionary." Johnson was pleased with
young Mr. Sheridan's liberality of sentiment, and willing to show that
though estranged from the father he could acknowledge the brilliant
merit of the son, he proposed him, and secured his election, as a member
of the Literary Club, observing that "he who has written the two best
comedies of his age ["The Rivals" and "The Duenna"] is surely a
considerable man."

In the autumn Dr. Johnson went to Ashbourne to stop with his friend, the
Rev. Dr. Taylor, and I joined him there. I was somewhat disappointed in
finding that the edition of the "English Poets" for which he was to
write prefaces and lives was not an undertaking directed by him, but
that he was to furnish a preface and life to any poet the booksellers
pleased. I asked him if he would do this to any dunce's works if they
should ask him. Johnson: "Yes, sir, and _say_ he was a dunce." My friend
seemed now not much to relish talking of this edition; it had been
arranged by the forty chief booksellers of London, and Johnson had named
his own terms for the "Lives," namely, two hundred guineas.

During this visit he put into my hands the whole series of his writings
in behalf of the Rev. Dr. William Dodd, who, having been
chaplain-in-ordinary to his majesty, and celebrated as a very popular
preacher, was this year convicted and executed for forging a bond on his
former pupil, the young Earl of Chesterfield. Johnson certainly made


Back to Full Books