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Minutes of a Meeting at the Mitre - Robert F. Young

Minutes of a Meeting at the Mitre - Robert F. Young

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{\rtf1{\info{\title Minutes of a Meeting at the Mitre}{\author Robert F.

Young}} \ansi\ansicpg1252\deff0\deflang1033 {\fonttbl{\f0\froman\fprq2\fcharset128 Times New Roman;}{\f1\froman\fprq2\fchars et128 Times New Roman;}{\f2\fswiss\fprq2\fcharset128 Arial;}{\f3\fnil\fprq2\fcha rset128 Arial;}{\f4\fnil\fprq2\fcharset128 MS Mincho;}{\f5\fnil\fprq2\fcharset12 8 Tahoma;}{\f6\fnil\fprq0\fcharset128 Tahoma;}} {\stylesheet{\ql \li0\ri0\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\ fcs1 \af25\afs24\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \fs24\lang1033\langfe255\cgrid\langnp1033 \langfenp255 \snext0 Normal;} {\s1\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel0\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\af0\afs32\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \b\fs32\lang1033 \langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedon15 \ snext16 \slink21 heading 1;} {\s2\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel1\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\ai\af0\afs28\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \b\i\fs28\lan g1033\langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedo n15 \snext16 \slink22 heading 2;} {\s3\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel2\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\af0\afs28\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \b\fs28\lang1033 \langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedon15 \ snext16 \slink23 heading 3;} {\s4\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel3\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\ai\af0\afs23\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0\b\i\fs23\lang 1033\langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedon 15 \snext16 \slink24 heading 4;} {\s5\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel4\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\af0\afs23\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \b\fs23\lang1033 \langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedon15 \ snext16 \slink25 heading 5;} {\s6\ql \li0\ri0\sb240\sa120\keepn\nowidctlpar\wrapdefault\faauto\outlinelevel5\ rin0\lin0\itap0 \rtlch\fcs1 \ab\af0\afs21\alang1033 \ltrch\fcs0 \b\fs21\lang1033 \langfe255\loch\f1\hich\af1\dbch\af26\cgrid\langnp1033\langfenp255 \sbasedon15 \ snext16 \slink26 heading 6;}} {\i It is Samuel Johnson the conversationalist that we remember, not Johnson the}{ {\i writer. "A tavern chair," he said, "is the throne of human felicity"\u8212?and d uring the} {\i last third of his life, he sat enthroned, talking. His faithful recorder was Jam es}\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ {\i Boswell, and in the story below, Robert F. Young} {\i draws upon one of their first}\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ {\i meetings to give us another fine variation on a classic fantasy theme. }\par\par d\plain\hyphpar}{ {\b }\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{\s1 \afs32 {\b MINUTES OF A MEETING AT THE MITRE\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}\par\pard\plain\hyphpar }{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ by Robert F. Young\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ THE ORIGINAL OF THE FOLLOWing literary fragment was among the batch of Boswelli ana\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ recently found in the west tower of the castle of Cernach, County Cork, Ireland , and every indication points to its having been included in an earlier version of {\i The Life of Samuel Johnson. } Although the biographer's reasons for excluding it

from the final manuscript were buried with him and cannot be dug up again. sir (said I). but because of the manner in which he came by it. few of which." JOHNSON: "London. Dr. Dickens. narrow of counte nance. Johnson returned th e gaze." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Although it was toward myself that this observation was addressed. had in the meantime taken up a position before the hearth. \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ As he had done on the preceding evening. disdained this attitude . we chose a table next to the hearth. upo n his unhealthy appearance. He apologized for his proximity. I could not forbear commenting. Dickens h ad not specified exactly what kind of immortality he had in mind. decl ined a glass when it was proffered him. with a pronounced chill in the air. as we have already seen. had swelled out on his forehead. He introduced himself as Dr. sir. but. a p allor made to seem all the more acute by the thinness of his cheeks and the burn ing quality of his eyes. grey-suited man of indeterminate age. is a state of mind. sir (said he). is it your contention that the scullery maid who plucks the chicken is less happy than the cook who prepar es it for the table because the cook is better acquainted with the fowl's physic kal properties?" GOLDSMITH:\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ "No. "Can it be. Goldsmith attempted to maintain th at knowledge was undesirable on its own account because it is frequently a sourc e of unhappiness. sir." DICKENS: "A most melancholy one. no more than I shall ever become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of London lexicographers. for unhappiness resulting from knowledge comes only in the higher spheres. Johnson. Boswell realized that Dr. countered with a smile of ridicule. Johnson and Dr. of which Johnson partook as e normously as he did of the wine which followed. Gradually. Indeed. (2) that Boswe ll simultaneously realized that there was a quality about Dr. Faust was not a happy man. however. 1763." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Johnson ordered the serving maid to bring more wine. although you endeavoured to cloak . it was towar d Dr. I again supped at the {\i Mitre } with Dr. the influence of a moist at mosphere upon the human frame is much overemphasized in the world. saying that he was extremely susceptible to the chill and was seeking to ward it off by the only m eans available. duri ng the repast. It happening to be a very rainy nigh t. although he of all those present seemed most in need of it. and with dark. A tall. Johnson that the pale man's burning gaze was directed. and the perspiration. owing to the unfavourable disposition of the weather." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ This preliminary parley introduced a good supper. London is not the worse for its climate. Johnson's role in the affair that did not quite meet the eye. were present. Dickens. wher ein a small fire was being maintained on the grate for the physickal comfort of the patrons. which the intensity of his appetite had brought into being. and (3) that Boswell concluded it wo uld be better for all parties concerned if the public were to consider Johnson a s owing that to a Biographer. we a re." JOHNSON: "He was unhappy not because of his lore . then in spirit. Goldsmith. which Providence had enabled him to obtain for him self. whereupon Johnson bade him join us at our table. who. Dr. nevertheless. 1988\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ On Saturday. however indirectly. if not in kind. glowing eyes. but the better. where knowledge elevates the travel ler to lofty plateaus from which he views the world in all its petty imperfectio ns. pale of skin. dwindled to a faint film of moisture. I do not contend such to be the truth. I consider the idio syncrasies of both to be beyond reproach. the 2nd of July. I fear I cannot concur. the veins which. there was an intense pallor present in his face. \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Connaught on the Snithe\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ January 17. "Sir (said he). that you are used to a war mer and more consistent climate and have not as yet become accustomed to the idi osyncrasies of London weather?" \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ "I shall never become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of London weather (said he). \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ JOHNSON (after our guest had seated himself): "Sir. "Why. subsided. justified in drawing the following tentative conclusions: (1) that upon rereading the passage in question." DICKENS: "In that.

BOSWELL: "Sir. there being in the British Isles at this time none of comparable reknown or of comparable as ininity. Boswell. Johnson in so disrespectful a manner? " GOLDSMITH: "How dare you. almost a s though he did not want me to see the contents of the document. sir. no. and you are going to sell it to me." DICKENS: "There is none other to whom I could be referring. unexpectedly. when you imputed Faust's {\i Weltschmerz } to the pact he made with me. therefore. sir." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ My indignation was of such magnitude that it was beyond my ability to repress i t. I suggest that you do myself and my companions the courtesy of unburden ing our good company with your uncivil presence. "Can it be then . Dickens produced a document with a bright-r ed border and spread it out on the table before Dr. "Sir (sai d I). He next called the serving maid. please. And afterwa rd. for a man who has been rendered immortal retains his soul forever. he smiled. Johnson was right. JOHNSON (with a roar of mocking laughter): "What\u8212?you do not want it signed in blood?" DICKENS: "Sir." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Johnson blinked one of his eyes." \par\pard\ plain\hyphpar}{ I did not like the expression of self-satisfaction on the man's countenance. \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ . per {\i se. that I am the lexicographer to whom you specifically refer. That line right there at the bottom. and bade her bring quill and ink. the paradox inherent in the terms would invalidat e them. Johnson was right about that too: no court of law would ever uphold such a ridiculous agreement." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Johnson blew out his breath like a whale and swallowed three glasses of port. who. What court of law wou ld ever uphold such a ludicrous negotiation?" DICKENS: "One of mine. I perceive that I alone inspired it. I will sell it to you. and {\i } even were a court to do so. } to have caused me to forsake my warm and cheerful fireside for this dismal fog bank you call London and this wretched grotto of gluttony you call the {\i Mitre. of course. and as for the contract. you are the Devil." JOHNSO N (with a smile of triumph): "Very well." JOHNSON:\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ "And what shall I receive in return?" DICKENS: "Immortality. Where it says `signature of litt erateur'. and I must conclude. When signed in ink." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ From the interior of his grey coat. how dare you address Dr. one of my contracts is as binding as one of yours i s.your scurrilous remark in ambiguity. In this. I overlooked your writing `Hell' off in your spiteful lexicon as \u8216?t he place into which the taylor throws his shreds' and I overlooked your writing {\i me } off in the same outrageous lucubration as \u224?\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ ludicrous term for mischief'. sir (said he). } Only because your remark culminated your affronts to me was I forced to come. turned sideways so that his massive shoulder intervened between my eyes and the page. I was thwarted by none other than Johnson himself." DICKENS. that you have come to bargain for my soul? If so. and he had signed his name for no other reason than to get rid of this demented dolt who fancied himself to be none other than Old Nick himself. you w ould do well to pay less attention to old wives' tales and more to the world aro und you. bu t Dr. Johnson's notoriously poor eyes ight caused me to lean forward in an attempt to discern what was written on the paper." DICKENS: "Precisely. Then. Johnson. But that would not have been sufficie nt. and you know it." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Both my legal instincts and my awareness of Dr." DICKENS: "You invoked me deliberately. and c ould not part with it even if {\i } he wanted to. Sir. might it not be the better part of wisdom to permit me to act as your repr esentative in this matter?" JOHNSON (signing his name with a flurish): "No. Let us be rid of this blockhead once and for all. have you not presumed too much? I did not invoke you. But I cannot and I will not overlook three exampl es of your cynical asperity in a row. sir. sir. " Sir (said he). indeed!" DICKENS: "I both dare to and have done so. Yes: I have come to bargain for your soul." JOHNSON:\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ "Then. sir. I am more than tha t: I am the first Whig. I perceive you are a vile Whig.

I found him sur\u8212? \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ (Here the fragment ends. Johnson was so famous at the time. and after a moment."} GOLDSMITH: "But sir. for it. inv isible fingers were digging into my brain. as {\i the Johnsonian aether. He st epped over to the hearth and resumed his position before the grate. he was gone. my mind reeled. Dickens lowered his gaze. It is not for what they write during their lifetimes that literary men are remembered by posterity. \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ Dr. I have since had no cause to regr et my assiduousness in this matter." GOLDSMITH: " But in {\i Tom Jones } he penned a masterpiece that virtually ensures his immortality. returned the document to the interior of his coat. it was my pleasure to attend one of the {\i levees } for which Dr. meanwhile.Dickens. had resumed his conversation with Goldsmith. sir. This is manifestly untrue. } JOHNSON: "Why. Johnson's wisdom and wit. for lack of a more scientifick term. which I have collected. had fixed me with a gaze of such inten sity that when I met his burning eyes. and when nex t I looked. has enabled me to execute my labors with a fa cility which would otherwise have been impossible. arranging this pattern of thought and re-arranging that. p apers. the 3rd of July. and stood up. &c. I am not certain that I experienced it at all). Johnson. \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ On Sunday. you are assuming Fielding to have been a literary giant. as us ual. } and soon afterward I began committing to paper the exub erant variety of Dr. but for what they {\i say. The sensation did not last long (indeed. in making such a prognostication. who. was\par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ endeavouring to {\i shine. together with the various letters. who will ever know what they said if they were too i ndolent to write it down?" JOHNSON: "The wise man sees to it that it {\i is} written down." JOH NSON: "Pish.) \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{\par\pard\hyphpar }{\page } } . I felt as though hot." \par\pard\plain\hyphpar}{ It was shortly following this meeting at the {\i Mitre } that my mind began to be impregnated with what I have already referred t o. seemingly divining my thoughts. in retrospect.

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