Thursday, October 30, 2008

Outtake From Boswell

Next morning I found him alone, and have preserved the following fragments of his conversation. Of a gentleman[1] who was mentioned, he said, 'I have not met with any man for a long time who has given me such general displeasure. He is totally unfixed in his principles, and wants to puzzle other people.' I said his principles had been poisoned by a noted infidel writer,[2] but that he was, nevertheless, a benevolent good man. JOHNSON. 'We can have no dependance upon that instinctive, that constitutional goodness which is not founded upon principle. I grant you that such a man may be a very amiable member of society. I can conceive him placed in such a situation that he is not much tempted to deviate from what is right; and as every man prefers virtue, when there is not some strong incitement to transgress its precepts, I can conceive him doing nothing wrong. But if such a man stood in need of money, I should not like to trust him; and I should certainly not trust him with young ladies, for there there is always temptation. Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to errour. Truth, [3] Sir, is a cow[4] which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.[5] And what is worse, their impostures have received credit from such wayward spirits as your friend,' (by whom he meant, the gentleman previously mentioned) 'who want a moral grounding in principles of settled verity. They are not only sh**ty in themselves, they are the cause that sh*t is in other men.'[6]


[1] Dempster. MALONE.

[2] Hume. JAS. BOSWELL, JR.

[3] Miss Hannah Moore. DR BURNEY.

[4] Miss Frances Burney. MISS MOORE.

[5] Lord Monboddo. HILL.

[6] Cf. Shaks. II Henry IV, I.ii.

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