Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Clear your Mind of Cant
By James Boswell (17401795)
From Life of Johnson
I HAVE no minute of any interview with Johnson till Thursday, May 15th, when I find what follows:BOSWELL: I wish much to be in Parliament, sir.JOHNSON: Why, sir, unless you come resolved to support any administration, you would be the worse for being in Parliament, because you would be obliged to live more expensively.BOSWELL: Perhaps, sir, I should be the less happy for being in Parliament. I never would sell my vote, and I should be vexed if things went wrong.JOHNSON: Thats cant, sir. It would not vex you more in the House than in the gallery: public affairs vex no man.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 ate an ounce less meat. I would have knocked the factious dog on the head, to be sure; but I was not vexed.BOSWELL: 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 bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times. You dont 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 dont care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in society: but dont think foolishly.