Today is the anniversary of the death of James Boswell (b.29 October 1740 – d.19 May 1795). Boswell was a Scottish landowner, biographer and diarist, best known for his Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). There is a Boswell Society here on WordPress.
Boswell famously quoted Dr Johnson as saying: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I’m not sure what either would say about modern blogging. Hundreds of thousands of blockheads tap, tap, tapping away – with no hope of clink of coin or rustle of note.
So, here are 11 quotes from James Boswell, often channelling the thoughts of Samuel Johnson.
11. “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
10. “We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over. So in a series of acts of kindness there is, at last, one which makes the heart run over.”
9. “Nay, Sir, it was not the WINE that made your head ache, but the SENSE that I put into it’
‘What, Sir! will sense make the head ache?’
‘Yes, Sir, (with a smile,) when it is not used to it.”
8. “Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”
7. “The wickedness of a loose or profane author is more atrocious than that of a giddy libertine or drunken ravisher, not only because it extends its effects wider, as a pestilence that taints the air is more destructive than poison infused in a draught, but because it is committed with cool deliberation.”
6. “What can he mean by coming among us? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.”
5. “His mind resembled the vast ampitheatre, the Colisæum at Rome. In the centre stood his judgement, which like a mighty gladiator, combated those apprehensions that, like the wild beasts of the Arena, were all around in cells, ready to be let out upon him. After a conflict, he drives them back into their dens; but not killing them, they were still assailing him.”
4. “Writing a book I have found to be like building a house. A man forms a plan, and collects materials. He thinks he has enough to raise a large and stately edifice; but after he has arranged, compacted and polished, his work turns out to be a very small performance. The author however like the builder, knows how much labour his work has cost him; and therefore estimates it at a higher rate than other people think it deserves.”
3. “I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation on its virtues. It comforts and enlivens without the risks attendant on spirituous liquors. Gentle herb! Let the florid grape yield to thee. Thy soft influence is a more safe inspirer of social joy.”
2. “But we find that war is followed by no general good whatever. The power, the glory, or the wealth of a very few may be enlarged. But the people in general, upon both sides, after all the sufferings are passed, pursue their ordinary occupations, with no difference from their former state. The evils therefore of war… are a mere loss without any advantage…”
1. “It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.”