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16. Soldiers and Sailors
"No man will be a sailor who has
contrivance enough to get
himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with
the chance of being drowned."
132. Soldiers and Sailors
"A ship is worse than a gaol. There is, in a gaol, better air,
better company, better conveniency of every kind; and a ship has
the additional disadvantage of being in danger."
133. Career Choices; Soldiers and Sailors
"Men go to sea, before they know the unhappiness of that way of
life; and when they have come to know it, they cannot escape
from it, because it is then too late to choose another
profession; as indeed is generally the case with men, when they
have once engaged in any particular way of life."
200. Public servants; Soldiers and
"The character of a soldier is high. They who stand forth the
foremost in danger, for the community, have the respect of
mankind. An officer is much more respected than any other man
who has as little money. In a commercial country, money will
always purchase respect. But you find, an officer, who has,
properly speaking, no money, is every where well received and
treated with attention. The character of a soldier always stands
him in good stead."
201. Soldiers and Sailors; Supply and
The peculiar respect paid to the military character in France was
mentioned. Boswell: "I should think that where military
men are so numerous, they would be less valued as not being
rare." Johnson: "Nay, Sir, wherever a particular
character or profession is high in the estimation of a people,
those who are of it will be valued above other men. We value an
Englishman highly in this country, and yet Englishman are not
rare in it."
266. Soldiers and Sailors
"A soldier's time is passed in distress and danger, or in
idleness and corruption."
267. Soldiers and Sailors
We talked of war. Johnson: "Every man thinks meanly of
himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at
sea." Boswell: "Lord Mansfield does not."
Johnson: "Sir, if Lord Mansfield were in a company of
General Officers and Admirals who have been in service, he would
shrink; he'd wish to creep under the table." Boswell:
""No; he'd think he could try them all." Johnson:
"Yes, if he could catch them: but they'd try him much sooner.
No, Sir; were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both
present in any company, and Socrates to say, 'Follow me, and hear
a lecture on philosophy;' and Charles, laying his hand on his
sword, to say, 'Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;' a man would
be ashamed to follow Socrates. Sir, the impression is universal;
yet it is strange. As to the sailor, when you look down from the
quarter deck to the space below, you see the utmost extremity of
human misery; such crouding, such filth, such stench!"
Boswell: "Yet sailors are happy." Johnson: "They
are happy as brutes are happy, with a piece of fresh meat, --with
the grossest sensuality. But, Sir, the profession of soldiers
and sailors has the dignity of danger. Mankind reverence those
who have got over fear, which is so general a weakness."
Scott: "But is not courage mechanical, and to be
acquired?" Johnson: "Why yes, Sir, in a collective
sense. Soldiers consider themselves only as parts of a great
machine." Scott: "We find people fond of being sailors."
Johnson: "I cannot account for that, any more than I can
account for other strange perversions of imagination."
629. Soldiers/Sailors; Sorrow
"The safe and general antidote against sorrow is employment. It
is commonly observed, that among soldiers and seamen, though
there is much kindness, there is little grief; they see their
friend fall without any of that lamentation which is indulged in
security and idleness, because they have no leisure to spare from
the care of themselves; and whoever shall keep his thoughts
equally busy will find himself equally unaffected with
Johnson: Rambler #47 (August 28, 1750)
801. Boredom; Soldiers and Sailors;
"I suppose every man is shocked when he hears how frequently
soldiers are wishing for war. The wish is not always sincere;
the greater part are content with sleep and lace, and counterfeit
an ardour which they do not feel; but those who desire it most
are neither prompted by malevolence nor patriotism; they neither
pant for laurels, nor delight in blood; but long to be delivered
from the tyranny of idleness, and restored to the dignity of
Johnson: Idler #21 (September 2, 1758)
1,398. Patriotism; Soldiers and Sailors;
It affords a generous and manly pleasure to conceive a little
nation gathering its fruits and tending its herds with fearless
confidence, though it lies open on every side to invasion, where,
in contempt of walls and trenches, every man sleeps securely with
his sword beside him; where all on the first approach of
hostility come together at the call to battle, as at a summons to
a festal show; and committing their cattle to the care of those
whom age or nature has disabled, engage the enemy with that
competition for hazard and for glory, which operate in men that
fight under the eye of those, whose dislike or kindness they have
always considered as the greatest evil or the greatest good.
This was, in the beginning of the present century, the state
of the Highlands. Every man was a soldier, who partook of
national confidence, and interested himself in national honour.
To lose this spirit, is to lose what no small advantage will
Johnson: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland
1,495. Soldiers and Sailors; War
"It is not the desire of new acquisitions, but the glory of
conquests, that fires the soldier's breast; as indeed the town is
seldom worth much, when it has suffered the devastations of a
Johnson: Adventurer #34 (March 3, 1753), from a fictional
correspondent named Misargyrus