James Boswell Quotes

A Sceptick therefore, who because he finds that Truths are not universally received, doubts of their existence, is just as foolish as a man who should try large shoes upon little feet, and little shoes upon large feet, and finding that they did not fit both should hold up his hands with philosophical agitation, and […]

When Johnson was ill and unable to exert himself as much as usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said: ‘That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now, it would kill me.’

(Johnson) said, our judges had not gone deep in the question concerning literary property. I mentioned Lord Monboddo’s opinion, that if a man could get a work by heart, he might print it, as by such an act the mind is exercised. Johnson: “No, Sir; a man’s repeating it no more makes it his property, […]

When I got into the street I grew very drunk and miserably sick, so that I had to stop in many closes in my way home, and when I got home I was shockingly affected, being so furious that I took up the chairs in the dining-room and threw them about and broke some of […]

He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever mentioned to ask an explanation. It appeared to me some superstitious habit, which he had contracted early, and from which he had never called upon his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in at a door or […]

Adams: But Sir, how can you do this in three years? Johnson: Sir, I have no doubt I can do it in three years. Adams: But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their dictionary. Johnson: Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times […]

I should live no more than I can record, as one should not have more corn growing than one can get at. There is a waste of good if it be not preserved.

Talking of constitutional melancholy, (Johnson) 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 […]

He talked of going to Streatham that night. Taylor: “You’ll be robbed if you do; or you must shoot a highwayman. Now I would rather be robbed than do that; I would not shoot a highwayman.” Johnson: “But I would rather shoot him in the instant when he is attempting to rob me, than afterwards […]

Talking of the Justitia hulk at Woolwich, in which criminals were punished, by being confined to labour, (Johnson) said “I do not see that they are punished by this; they must have worked equally had they never been guilty of stealing. They now only work; so, after all, they have gained; what they stole is […]