366. Hot Air; Scotland
"He that travels in the Highlands may easily saturate his soul
with intelligence, if he will acquiesce in the first account.
The highlander gives to every question an answer so prompt and
peremptory, that skepticism itself is dared into silence, and the
mind sinks before the bold reporter in unresisting credulity;
but, if a second question be ventured, it breaks the enchantment;
for it is immediately discovered, that what was told so
confidently was told at hazard, and that such fearlessness of
assertion was either the sport of negligence, or the refuge of
Johnson: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland
1,513. Hot Air
Boswell. "Have not they vexed yourself a little, Sir? Have not
you been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign, and by that
absurd vote of the House of Commons, 'That the influence of the
Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished'?"
Johnson. "Sir, I have never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce
less meat. I would have knocked the factious dogs on the head, to
be sure; but I was not vexed." Boswell. "I declare, Sir,
upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed, and took a pride in
it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I neither ate less, nor
slept less." Johnson. "My dear friend, clear your mind of
cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a
man, 'Sir, I am your most humble servant. You are not his
most humble servant. You may say, 'These are sad times; it is a
melancholy thing to be reserved to such times." You don't mind
the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had such bad weather
the last day of your journey, and were so much wet." You don't
care six-pence whether he was wet or dry. You may talk in
this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society; but don't
1,855. Hot Air; Mortality
On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner; Dr.
Dodd's poem entitled Thoughts in Prison was lying upon his
table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who
was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear
Johnson's opinion of it: to my surpize, he told me he had not
read a line of it. I took up the book and read a passage to him.
JOHNSON. "Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like
them." I read another passage, with which he was better pleased.
He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at
the prayer at the end of it, he said, "What evidence is
there that this was composed the night before he suffered?
I do not believe it." He then read aloud where he prays
for the King, &c. and observed, "Sir, do you think that a man the
night before he is to be hanged cares for the succession of a
royal family?— Though, he may have composed this
prayer, then. A man who has been canting all his life, may cant
to the last.— And yet a man who has been refused a pardon
after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently
for the King."
Boswell: Life of Johnson