Impressions

2 August 2006 at 15:02 Leave a comment

James Boswell talking with Samuel Johnson, 3 June 1781:

“Being in a frame of mind which I hope, for the felicity of human nature, many experience, in fine weather, at the country-house of a friend, consoled and elevated by pious exercises, I expressed myself with an unrestrained fervour to my ‘Guide, Philosopher, and Friend’: ‘My dear sir, I would fain be a good man; and I am very good now. I fear God, and honour the King; I wish to do no ill, and to be benevolent to all mankind.’ He looked at me with benignant indulgence; but too occasion to give me wise and salutory caution. ‘Do not, sir, accustom yourself to trust to impressions. There is a middle state of mind between conviction and hypocrisy, of which many are unconscious. By trusting to impressions, a man may gradually come to yield to them, and at length be subject to them, so as not to be a free agent, or, what is the same thing in effect, to suppose that he is not a free agent. A man who is in that state should not be suffered to live; if he declares he cannot help acting in a particular way, and is irresistibly impelled, there can be no confidence in him, no more than in a tiger. But, sir, no man believes himself to be impelled irresistibly; we know that he who says he believes it, lies…’

from James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.

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Entry filed under: Dr. Samuel Johnson, of interest.

Overheard XV Overheard XVI

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 4 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 4 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 4 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 5 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 5 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.

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