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All In Your Mind
135. Depression; Diversion;
Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, "A man so
afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat
with them." Boswell: "May not he think them down, Sir?"
Johnson: "No, Sir. To attempt to think them down
is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed
chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a
book, and read, and compose himself to rest. To have the
management of the mind is a great art, and it may be attained in
a considerable degree by experience and habitual exercise.."
Boswell: "Should not he provide amusements for himself?
Would it not, for instance, be right for him to take a course of
chymistry?" Johnson: "Let him take a course of
chymistry, or a course of rope-dancing, or a course of any thing
to which he is inclined at the time. Let him contrive to have as
many retreats for his mind as he can, as many things to which it
can fly from itself."
547. Depression; Drinking
I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the
blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where
she had dined the day before. "There were several gentlemen
there," said she, "and when some of them came to the tea-table, I
found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking." She
closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection;
which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to
animals -- "I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts
of themselves." "I wonder, Madam," replied the Doctor,
"that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to
this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid
of the pain of being a man."
Anecdotes of the Revd. Percival Stockdale; collected in
"Johnsonian Miscellanies," edited by G.B. Hill.